Health Canada is advising Canadians of the potential limitations when using test strips to detect fentanyl in street drugs.
A preliminary study undertaken by Health Canada indicated that false negatives could occur when using fentanyl-detection test strips. A false negative would be a test result that does not detect the fentanyl in a drug sample even though it does contain fentanyl. A false negative could lead to a false sense of security which may result in overdose or death. This is particularly true for people who may choose to use drugs alone or without visiting a supervised consumption site where emergency help is immediately available.
Take necessary precautions if you use drugs
Health Canada is urging Canadians to treat all illegal drugs as potentially contaminated and to take the necessary precautions if they are using drugs, such as:
- Never consume alone
- Go to a supervised consumption site if your community has one
- Supervised consumption sites also provide access to health care and treatment services
- Consider consuming a smaller dose
- Make sure that you, or the person you are with, has naloxone and knows how to administer it
In the event of an overdose:
- Call for emergency help
- Administer naloxone if you suspect an opioid overdose
- Stay calm and reassure the person that help is on the way
Don’t be afraid to seek emergency help if you or someone you are with is experiencing overdose-like symptoms. Canada’s Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act protects individuals who seek emergency help for an overdose from charges of simple possession, as well as breach of conditions related to simple possession as it relates to pre-trial release, probation order, conditional sentence or parole.
Help is available if you, a friend or a family member are struggling with a substance use disorder.
Limitations of Test Strips in Detecting Fentanyl
Canada is currently facing a public health crisis because of an increasing number of opioid-related overdoses. Health Canada is aware that some individuals and organizations may choose to use test strips to detect fentanyl, as part of harm reduction measures.
Some individuals and organizations are using test strips to detect fentanyl by dissolving a small amount of drugs in a solution. These test strips have not been designed for direct use by consumers in this way, which could lead to false negative results.
Health Canada’s Drug Analysis Service has undertaken a preliminary study to compare the accuracy of a fentanyl test strip product against our more accurate laboratory technology. Results to date are very preliminary, but do show that there is a possibility for a small number of false negatives. More research on this issue is needed.
Health Canada is committed to investing in research to improve drug-checking technologies, and to inform on-going discussions on this harm reduction practice. Health Canada will also continue to support access to drug-checking services at approved supervised consumption sites that wish to provide this service, where individuals have access to personnel who are trained in overdose response.
Source: Media Release