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California is making fentanyl test strips free to organizations. How to get a kit

A test strip shows a substance is positive for fentanyl.
A test strip shows that the heroin sampled is positive for fentanyl. There are two kinds of fentanyl, pharmaceutical and illicitly manufactured fentanyl. The latter is distributed through illegal drug markets and often sold as counterfeit pills.
(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
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In an effort to slow the proliferation of synthetic opioid-related deaths, California will begin offering free fentanyl-testing strips to eligible organizations across the state that ask for them, the state Department of Health Care Services announced Thursday.

The tests will be made available through the state’s Naloxone Distribution Project, a network of organizations that ships naloxone (commonly sold under the brand name Narcan) — a medication that rapidly reverses an opioid overdose — for free to first responders, schools, harm reduction organizations, tribal entities and public health agencies. The project is funded through state general funds and legal settlements.

“Fentanyl test strips can be a useful addition to time-tested harm reduction strategies, such as never using alone and always carrying naloxone,” Pike Long, a harm reduction specialist with the state Department of Public Health Services, said in a statement.

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There are two kinds of fentanyl, pharmaceutical and illicitly manufactured fentanyl. The latter is distributed through illegal drug markets for its heroin-like effect and often sold as counterfeit pills. It can also be up to 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine.

The state’s most recent public health data show 6,473 deaths were related to fentanyl overdoses in 2022 and more than 21,000 emergency department visits were related to any type of opioid-related overdose.

With Thursday’s announcement, the Naloxone Distribution Project’s list of eligibile entities can now apply for a supply of fentanyl testing kits online that have a measuring scoop, the fentanyl test strip, a water pouch and test instructions.

The all-in-one fentanyl test strip kits also reduce errors in testing drugs for fentanyl by including clear markings on the water pouch to prevent under and over dilution, and a result guide for test comparison.

Where to get test strips

Los Angeles LGBTQ Center
The center provides free fentanyl test strips to those who request them. It also provides free or low-cost, comprehensive, judgment-free addiction recovery services. For more information, email recovery@lalgbtcenter.org or call (323) 993-7448.

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APLA Health
APLA Health has multiple locations throughout Los Angeles County that offer test strips, including Koreatown, two locations in Baldwin Hills, Mid-Wilshire, downtown L.A. and Long Beach. It also offers treatment that can help reduce or eliminate behaviors that sustain addiction and substance use. For more information call (323) 215-1725 or visit aplahealth.org/fentanyl.

TACO
The nonprofit Team Awareness Combating Overdose provides pickup and delivery options for 1-cent test strips on university campuses, including UC Berkeley, USC, UCLA and UC Santa Barbara. TACO partners with delivery apps Duffl and Handle. Or you can pick up a test at a location listed on TACO’s website.

End Overdose
The organization provides training and tools to treat people who overdose and prevent death through education, medical intervention and public awareness. It sells packages of five fentanyl testing strips online for $7.99. Each package comes with a QR sticker that when scanned leads to directions on how to use the test strips.

County health clinics
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health operates 14 health centers that provide free and low-cost services to those with no insurance or who do not have a regular healthcare provider. The department has a list of its health clinics and encourages people to visit their local clinic for free fentanyl test strips.

Engagement and Overdose Preventation Hubs
The hubs are Los Angeles County-contracted syringe service providers that offer harm reduction services, peer-led education and peer-led support services. There is an online schedule of locations that distribute fentanyl test strips.

Fentanyl is often mixed with other drugs (including heroin, methamphetamine and cocaine) to increase potency, but it can be deadly. Test kits can help.

May 16, 2022

How do you use fentanyl test strips?

If you have a drug that wasn’t legitimately prescribed and supplied to you by medical professionals, use a test strip prior to ingestion to check whether it contains fentanyl.

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According to TACO, different types of drugs require different preparations for better test accuracy:

  • Powders: Shake and thoroughly mix in the bag that the drug came in. Any chunks need to be broken up.
  • Crystals: Crush into a fine powder and mix thoroughly.
  • Pills: Crush into fine powder and mix thoroughly.

Then, combine about a spoonful of water and a small amount of the drug (TACO suggests using a sample about the size of a strawberry seed). Put the test strip into the mixture, holding it by the solid blue end and inserting it no farther than the thick blue “MAX” line. The number of seconds it takes to complete the test will vary, so follow the directions on the kit or the instructions given to you by the organization providing the strip.

A single colored line is a positive result, meaning fentanyl is present and you shouldn’t consume the drug. A double colored line is a negative result.

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