On Saturday, June 28, Florida joined more than 30 other states that have moved to decriminalize Fentanyl test strips, in what many advocates say is a long overdue step toward fighting drug overdoses. The bill, known as Senate Bill 164, was part of a group of 8 other bills sent to the Governor’s desk to be signed into law. Sponsored by Sen. Tina Polsky-D, Boca Raton, the bill passed unanimously in both chambers after years of similar bills being shot down during the last weeks of the session.
“I think it’s an important step in curtailing the number of Opioid overdoses in Florida,” said Tim Santamour, director of outreach and networking for the Florida Harm Reduction Collective. “It may lead to folks making healthier decisions like cutting back on their use or even stopping use because they have an awareness of the risks they’re taking.”
Until now, Fentanyl test strips had previously been considered “drug paraphernalia” in Florida, meaning it was a crime to either possess or distribute them anywhere in the state.
Polsky, in response to the passage of the bill, referred to the legislation as “bittersweet.”
“I have listened to many stories from people who have lost their loved ones due to Fentanyl poisoning, and I wish it could have been passed sooner,” she said. “We must continue to do everything we can to protect people and ensure that families do not continue to suffer from this heartbreak.”
It’s important to note that while Fentanyl testing strips have been decriminalized in the state of Florida, they may still remain “illegal,” meaning the law may still allow police to confiscate them. To best keep up with the legality of Fentanyl testing strips, it’s always important to check your local city or state ordinances.
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The move to decriminalize Fentanyl test strips comes after an alarming spike in the number of overdose deaths in recent years. According to the Florida Medical Examiners Commission, Florida has also seen a dramatic rise in the number of overdoses involving Fentanyl analogs, most notably Xylazine, which have had devastating effects on communities across the country. Fentanyl test strips, which are backed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), have been shown in numerous studies to reduce the risk of overdose.
While the strips may not prevent drug use overall, they allow testers to take a pause if a strip comes back positive, possibly encouraging them to reconsider drug use and seek help, said Sheila Vakharia with the national nonprofit Drug Policy Alliance.
“You never know if a Fentanyl test strip can keep someone alive long enough so they can make that decision for themselves,” she said.
Education about and access to harm-reduction materials like Fentanyl test strips change the behaviors of people who use drugs, therefore reducing risk. Measures like this are vital to fighting the Opioid epidemic, which in 2021 alone claimed over 8,200 Floridians. Deaths from accidental drug overdoses in Florida have increased by nearly 31% since 2019.
Fentanyl test strips resemble COVID-19 at-home tests and will only cost $1.
Currently, Fentanyl test strips can be found in several locations. First, Fentanyl test strips can be bought online through vendors like BTNX or Dance Safe. They can also be found for free or at low cost through local health departments or community-based organizations, like safe injection sites or needle exchange programs.
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People who use drugs that may contain Fentanyl should always carry or have access to Narcan, the lifesaving Opioid overdose drug also known as Naloxone. Narcan can be found in local pharmacies across the state and is available to anyone over 18 at no cost.
While harm reduction strategies like Fentanyl test strips and Narcan are vital steps in treating drug addiction, the safest way to avoid an overdose is abstinence. While this is assuredly easier said than done, treatment programs exist to help bridge the gap between harm reduction and long-term recovery.
Inpatient treatment programs are often a great option for those struggling with Fentanyl or other Opioid use. Here, patients can safely detox from drugs while under the supervision of medical professionals should any complications arise. Inpatient programs also offer treatment in the form of therapy, medication, and support groups that can help promote healthy coping skills to support sobriety after leaving.
If you or someone you know is looking to make the move to an inpatient facility, or if you’d like more information about Fentanyl treatment options, contact a treatment provider today to learn more.
Zachary Pottle earned his B.A. in Professional Writing from Saint Leo University and has over three years of journalistic experience. His passion for writing has led him to a career in journalism, where he specializes in writing about stories in the pain management and healthcare industry. His main goal as a writer is to bring readers accurate, trustworthy content that serve as useful resources for bettering their lives or the lives of those around them.
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