Interior Health is now offering take-home drug-testing strips in a number of communities, including Kamloops.
“Because of the stigma that still surrounds addiction, many people die from overdose alone and at home,” said Judy Darcy, the province’s minister of mental health and addictions. “Giving people a simple, convenient way to check if their drugs contain fentanyl may help them avoid an overdose and reduce the number of lives lost to the unpredictable and toxic drug supply.”
The fentanyl test strips are available at community-based agencies in Kamloops, Vernon, Kelowna, Penticton, Merritt, Cranbrook and Nelson.
In Kamloops, the drug-testing strips can be found at the ASK Wellness Society site at 433 Tranquille Rd. in North Kamloops and at the Crossroads Inn, downtown at Seymour Street and Sixth Avenue.
More information on hours of operation can be found on IH’s website: www.drugchecking.ca.
“For many people, there’s a certain amount of shame associated with their addiction, which makes it challenging for them to access drug-checking services at health care facilities,” said Roger Parsonage, Interior Health’s executive director of clinical operations, with responsibility for the Mental Health and Substance Use Network. “With these take-home drug checking strips, they can now make informed, safer choices. This service has the potential to save lives.”
A study completed by IH, Vancouver Coastal Health and the BC Centre for Disease Control concluded that take-home drug checking indicated a positive result for fentanyl in opioid samples at a similar rate as on-site testing at community-based agencies. The research study was conducted from April to July in 2019 and gave participants with free take-home drug checking kits, each containing five fentanyl test strips, instructions, and a survey.
Results from 994 take-home fentanyl test strips used on opioid samples were compared to checks on opioids conducted at health care and community sites during the same time period:
• Take-home drug checking found 89.95 per cent of opioid samples contained fentanyl, while on-site drug checking found 89.14 per cent of samples contained fentanyl. • Twenty-seven cent of people using the take-home kit made a safer choice if their substance tested positive for fentanyl. A safer choice refers to using with a friend, using less of a substance, using more slowly or taking the substance at an overdose-prevention site or supervised drug-use site.
• Ninety-six per cent of those taking part said they would use the take-home checking kit again.
Jessica Bridgeman, Interior Health’s harm reduction co-ordinator, said take-home drug checking can be particularly helpful to those in rural and remote communities who may not have access to other overdose-prevention services.
Originally intended for urine drug tests, the use of fentanyl testing strips to check drugs for fentanyl was pioneered by Vancouver Coastal Health in 2016. A small amount of a drug is mixed with a few drops of water, the test strip is inserted into the solution and a positive or negative for fentanyl is revealed within seconds.