A pilot study assessing client understanding and use of fentanyl test strips for harm reduction

Aleeya A. Barrolle, Kelly N. Gable, Nathaniel Dell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported a sharp increase in overdose deaths from illicitly manufactured fentanyls (IMFs) occurring between 2020 and 2021 in the United States. Approximately 4 in 10 drug overdose deaths involved opioids and stimulants. Fentanyl test strips (FTS), used to test drug product before use, can be a powerful harm reduction tool to promote safer use behaviors. Objectives: This pilot study assessed treatment-seeking service users’ knowledge and understanding of IMFs and motivation to use FTS to prevent overdose. Methods: Clients receiving residential-based or office-based substance use treatment services were recruited from a community mental health center in the midwestern United States to complete a harm reduction-focused survey. Eligibility criteria included clients aged 18-89 years with self-reported drug use in the past year. A 20-question survey was administered verbally, both in person and via phone to assess knowledge of IMFs and FTS. Results: Of respondents (N = 30), 80% agreed that IMFs cause more overdoses than heroin. Most (73%) indicated concern about a friend overdosing owing to IMFs, and half (53%) expressed concern about personal risk of overdose. Most (73%) would like to be able to detect whether there is fentanyl in their drug before use, but only 17% indicated that they feel confident in their ability to use FTS. Conclusion: Many respondents who were receiving services for past-year substance use lacked understanding of how to use FTS for harm reduction. Clients who primarily use nonopioid (stimulant) drug products are at even greater risk of IMF overdose and would benefit the most from increased access and education surrounding the use of FTS. Our health care system must rapidly continue to explore and expand on overdose prevention efforts, including access to FTS, given that urgent action is needed to reduce the continued rise in overdose deaths in the United States.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)295-300
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of the American Pharmacists Association
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2023


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