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How Fentanyl Test Kits & Strips Can Help Reduce Overdoses

Peter Manza, PhD profile image
Reviewed By Peter Manza, PhD • Updated Oct 15, 2023 • 7 cited sources

What’s inside the pill or powder you bought from a dealer? Fentanyl test strips can help you determine if fentanyl is a hidden ingredient.

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As fentanyl continues to contaminate drugs inside the United States, experts say test strips have become a critical part of overdose prevention strategies.[1] 

More than 150 people die every day due to synthetic opioids like fentanyl.[2] A test strip could help you lower the risk of taking a fatal dose of this powerful drug. 

What Are Fentanyl Test Kits & Strips?

Fentanyl test strips can detect the presence of this powerful drug, even when it’s mixed with other substances. Whether you’re planning to take a pill, snort a powder or inject a liquid, a test strip could save your life.[3] 

Test strips typically can’t measure volume. So they can’t tell you how much fentanyl is inside a dose you’re planning to take. 

But they can help alert you to fentanyl in drugs you’re planning to take. If you test your dose, find fentanyl and don’t plan on using this substance, you can throw out the contaminated dose and prevent an overdose. 

Why Should You Use Test Strips?

Fentanyl is between 50 and 100 times more potent than morphine.[4] Dealers often lace the products they sell with this ingredient. Since it’s impossible to smell, taste or see fentanyl, you may never know that the dose you’re about to take is stronger than you expected. 

Test strips give you important information about fentanyl in your local drug supply.[3] With that information, you can take steps to reduce your overdose risks. 

Where to Buy Fentanyl Test Strips 

Online retailers sell test strips they’ll ship directly to your home. A quick internet search could connect you with a company willing to provide the products you need. But in some locations, you could get them for free. 

In some states, officials bought test strips in bulk. In Wisconsin, for example, officials bought more than 120,000 test strips that were distributed through the following organizations:[5]

  • Tribal nation health clinics
  • County health and human services departments
  • County health departments
  • Municipal health departments
  • Organizations serving people who inject drugs

Sweeping programs like this could help you connect with test strips for no or low costs. Search for “fentanyl test strips” and your state or county name to see if programs like this operate in your area. 

How to Use Fentanyl Test Strips 

The drug you’re about to use may seem uniformly shaped and sized. But fentanyl particulates could be unevenly distributed throughout your dose. The best and safest way to use test strips is to test the entire amount (not just part) of it.[6]

Follow these steps:[6]

  • Crush all the drugs on a clean surface (if it’s not already powdered).
  • Put the powder in a small plastic bag. Shake to mix. 
  • Add water to the powder. About a half-teaspoon should be enough. 
  • Put the test strip with the wavy side down into the water. 
  • Wait 15 seconds. 
  • Remove the strip and place it on a flat surface.
  • Wait for two minutes. 

If the test is positive, dispose of your dose. Even a small bit of fentanyl in the drugs could kill you. 

Will Test Strips Offer Overdose Protection?

No test is 100% accurate.[6] Testing strips can lower your overdose risks, but they can’t eliminate them altogether. 

Your test strips are also less effective if you test just part of the drugs you’ve acquired. Fentanyl particulates could be in just one part of the powder or pills you’ve bought. If you test the wrong part, you could still face fentanyl exposure. 

Strips can’t tell you how much fentanyl is inside the drugs, they only tell you whether or not it is present. And they can’t protect you from overdosing on other opioids, such as OxyContin or Vicodin. 

You can further reduce your overdose risk by following these steps:[3]

  • Never take drugs alone. If you overdose, someone needs to be present to call for help.
  • Have naloxone (Narcan) on hand. This medication can reverse an opioid overdose and save your life.
  • Don’t mix substances. Use of multiple substances (such as opioids with benzodiazepines, alcohol or stimulants) increases your risk of overdose.[7]

The safest way to protect yourself from an opioid overdose is to get treatment for opioid use disorder and stop taking these drugs for good. A treatment program can help to correct chemical imbalances, easing withdrawal symptoms and cravings. And the lessons you learn can help you build a new life in sobriety. 

Reviewed By Peter Manza, PhD

Peter Manza, PhD received his BA in Psychology and Biology from the University of Rochester and his PhD in Integrative Neuroscience at Stony Brook University. He is currently working as a research scientist in Washington, DC. His research focuses on the role ... Read More

  1. Facher L. Top health officials call for more research to support fentanyl test strips. Stat. Published June 10, 2023. Accessed August 21, 2023. 
  2. Fentanyl facts. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Published June 27, 2023. Accessed August 21, 2023. 
  3. Fentanyl test strips: A harm reduction strategy. Published September 30, 2022. Accessed August 21, 2023. 
  4. Fentanyl. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Published December 21, 2023. Accessed August 21, 2023. 
  5. Miller J, Goodsitt E. Free fentanyl test strips now available statewide. Wisconsin Department of Health Services. Published October 13, 2022. Accessed August 21, 2023. 
  6. How to test your drugs using fentanyl test strips. NYC Health. Published August 2021. Accessed August 21, 2023. 
  7. Tori ME, Larochelle MR, Naimi TS. Alcohol or Benzodiazepine Co-involvement With Opioid Overdose Deaths in the United States, 1999-2017. JAMA Netw Open. 2020;3(4):e202361. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.2361

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