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Fentanyl test strips found at dollar store, provide good 'alternative': advocate

Last Updated Jun 3, 2018 at 10:23 am PDT

"Here are positive fentanyl tests that you can by at the dollar tree and the ones we give out easy access to drug tests is important #vanpol," writes Sarah Blyth on Twitter. (Courtesy Sarah Blyth via Twitter)

Fentanyl test strips have been found at a Vancouver dollar store, and are being sold for about $1.25

The Overdose Prevention Society says fentanyl strips sold at a local shop make testing more accessible

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Fentanyl test strips have been found for cheap at a local dollar store in Vancouver.

They’re being sold at the Dollar Tree on Pender and Main Streets for $1.25, and were discovered by an Overdose Prevention Society volunteer.

“[They] went over to the dollar store to pick up a few items like water, glasses, and things like that,” explains the organization’s Sarah Blyth. “She noticed that there was some fentanyl test strips there, and actually marijuana test strips. So I said, ‘bring us some back,’ and she picked them up and brought them back and we did some tests on them.”

Fentanyl and marijuana testing strips are being sold at at least one Vancouver-area dollar store. (Courtesy Kali Sedgemore via Twitter)

Blyth says a number of different street drug samples were tested using the dollar store strips. “And we also used the fentanyl test strips that we have here at the overdose prevention site, and everything came up positive on both… It showed that, I think, the test works.”

This is good news, in her view, especially if the test strips become more widely available.

“I think that any access to a way that people can find an affordable way to test their drugs to make sure that they don’t have fentanyl in them or if it does have fentanyl and they don’t know it, then they can make some decisions about how they’re going to use the drugs.”

As the opioid crisis continues to take more lives across BC — and even the country, Blyth believes making these tests more accessible is important.

“The more that they can get these out, it would be a great thing,” she tells NEWS 1130. “Anyone who is taking drugs should have access to testing them these days, even though it doesn’t test for a lot of other things that can be really, really harmful that are in drugs these days.

“Anything that they can do to save lives is really good.”

Despite her excitement, Blyth says this doesn’t mean the test strips should always be trusted.

“We never know if it’s completely accurate. You need to always use with someone else because you never know what drugs have in them these days. It’s always better to be safe than sorry, and using alone is how people die.”

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Last year, Health Canada warned that a small number of test strips used to detect the deadly opioid could produce false-negative results.

Blyth encourages people to always take the necessary precautions when using drugs. That means going to an overdose prevention site, using a smaller quantity, and never using alone.

“You never know what drugs have in them these days. It’s always better to be safe than sorry, and using alone is how people die.”

The test strips also provide an alternative to those who may not feel comfortable going to a safe injection site to use or get their drugs tested, Blyth adds. “It’s just a store, it makes it super easy.”

Currently, there are two safe injection sites that offer drug testing as part of a pilot study by the City of Vancouver and BC Centre on Substance Abuse.

There were more than 1,400 suspected overdose deaths in BC last year; a 43 per cent increase from the total number of deaths in 2016.