A study to assess the feasibility of checking illicit street drugs for fentanyl found that low-cost test strips detect the presence of fentanyl with a high degree of accuracy, and that the vast majority of people who use street drugs are interested in using drug checking to help prevent overdoses.
The study, known as the FORECAST study, was conducted by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Rhode Island Hospital/Brown University, with support from the Bloomberg American Health Initiative. The initial findings indicate that drug checking presents an opportunity for a public health approach to the fentanyl overdose crisis.
Fentanyl is one of the most potent forms of opioid, and is often laced into street drugs, making it difficult for street users to ascertain their potency and therefore the potential for overdosing.
In 2016, overdoses claimed more than 64,000 lives, and all indications are that the 2017 numbers will be even greater. Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine, is the primary cause of the rapid increase in overdose deaths, and responsible for approximately 20,000 of the 2016 overdose deaths.