Test strips can detect fentanyl in street drugs in minutes

Technology is highly sensitive and can detect the tiniest amount of the drug

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By Kalvin Moses

Street drugs can be tested in minutes to detect even trace amounts of potentially lethal fentanyl.

There are several different technologies available to test for fentanyl, according to Kevin Hollett, associate director of communications at the B.C. Centre on Substance Use.

“Drug checking is a harm reduction intervention that can give people information about the substances that they’re using,” Hollett told the Voice.

He said that at this moment, the most widely used technology is Fourier Transformed Infrared (FTIR.)

“That’s a spectrometer. It’s a relatively small device that is paired with a laptop, and all that’s required is a very small sample, which the infrared spectrometer shoots down and then relays data to the laptop within a couple of minutes,” said Hollett.

When it comes to using the strips for testing, the process is even faster and easier.

“It’s really a matter of minutes, they’ll have the results on the FTIR scan and then they’ll pair it with the test strips for fentanyl and benzodiazepines,” said Hollett.

He said the advantages of this technology is that it is mobile, as you can move it around to different settings and it provides results for people very quickly.

Widespread, deadly, dangerous

When it comes to the safety supply of fentanyl, it can easily be adulterated.

“We’ve seen since the pandemic that the supply chain has created even more concentrated levels of fentanyl,” said Hollett.

He said that fentanyl continues to be the main cause of toxic drug deaths across Canada.

“Fentanyl continues to be a key driver in B.C. We also see in other provinces, Alberta and Ontario in particular, where we have good data that fentanyl is really fueling the drug poisoning crisis nationally,” Hollett said.

While it is definitely possible for people to get addicted to fentanyl, Hollett feels that the government is taking steps to make sure that the supply is controlled.

“It’s about having a legal framework in which we strictly regulate these substances and we control the supply chain,” he said.

He said that it is dangerous for people who are using these substances, so government needs to ensure that the supply is safe and that is where our efforts should go.

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