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Taking the guesswork out of overdoses with test strips to detect fentanyl

Posted at 6:11 PM, Aug 06, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-06 18:11:08-04

WESTMINSTER, Md. — She's been clean for 15 years, yet Stacia Smith remembers what it's like to be a heroin addict.

"I wake up in the morning on the nights I was able to get some type of sleep for two or three hours, and the first thought on my mind was how to get high," said Smith.

Smith now works with the Carroll County Health Department to help others battle addiction, and its latest tool to save lives are small strips, which can detect fentanyl in drugs.

"It's a tool that we're going to offer to give out to people who have already succumbed to an overdose,” said Recovery Services Director Lisa Pollard. “So those folks will be our target to try to get them, 'Okay, you've had an overdose. Now, maybe you need to be more careful.' Some people are well aware there's fentanyl in their drugs and other people aren't aware at all."

"As little as a teaspoon of water. You dip it in. Then lay it flat," Recovery Program Coordinator LuAnn Beck-Day said, as she demonstrated how to use the strips.

The department received 3,000 of them from the state at no charge and will provide them for free to users.

"It's two red lines,” Beck-Day said. “No Fentanyl has been detected."

In the first six months of this year, the county recorded 446 overdoses, and in two dozen cases, they proved to be fatal.

"Of the 24 deaths as of the end of June, only one of them didn't involve Fentanyl," said Beck-Day.

Fentanyl, which is showing up not only in heroin, but in tainted pain pills and even mixed with some over-the-counter drugs and marijuana.

"The dealers are putting it in everything," Beck-Day added.

Recovery specialists say the strips could give addicts an opportunity to stay alive until they decide to seek the help they need.

"The possibility of losing our lives---that's not the concern,” said Smith. “That's not anything that crosses your mind sometimes. It's just about getting high. Any opportunity to save a life is a win."