Recovery groups distribute fentanyl test strips inside Narcan kits
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Overdose deaths linked to fentanyl are on the rise in Alaska and recovery groups are distributing a new, potentially life-saving tool to detect the drug.
According to the Drug Enforcement Agency, fentanyl is an opioid that can affect how a person breathes and is 100 times more potent than morphine and 50 times more potent than heroin. If too much is taken, breathing may drastically slow or stop completely. The DEA says a lethal dose of fentanyl is roughly two milligrams.
In April, the Department of Public Safety warned Alaskans that counterfeit Oxycodone was being sold illegally, resulting in several overdoses in one week.
In a safety alert issued to the public, the state said light blue, round tablets circulating — that were marked M30 to resemble a 30-milligram tablet of Oxycodone — were actually fentanyl pills.
Even coming into contact with a small amount of the substance can be dangerous. In 2019, a corrections officer was taken to the hospital after she was exposed to fentanyl.
According to the state’s Office of Substance Misuse and Addiction Prevention, there were 22 synthetic opioid overdose deaths in Alaska from January 1 through June. Twenty-one of those deaths were associated with fentanyl.
During that same period in 2019, there were 11 synthetic opioid overdose deaths, and eight were associated with fentanyl, meaning overdoses involving fentanyl more than doubled this year.
Through Project HOPE, the state partners with community organizations to distribute Narcan kits.
“It temporarily blocks or reverses the effects of opioids. In most cases the effect is immediate (within 30 to 40 seconds), blocking the effects of the overdose and allowing the person to breathe again. This gives time to seek emergency medical assistance,” the Project HOPE webpage explains.
Now, those Narcan kits include an easy-to-use fentanyl test strip too.
Kim Whitaker, with REAL About Addiction, a group that distributes Narcan kits through Project HOPE, said the concept behind the test strip is “harm reduction” — keeping people who are struggling with substance abuse alive until they can receive treatment.
“Every person is precious. It’s not their fault. They did not want to grow up and be like this,” said Whitaker. “So it opens the door actually to saving their life for recovery because then they see that you care about them enough to give them something until they get their treatment.”
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