The number of deaths from accidental drug overdoses on synthetic opioids like fentanyl has skyrocketed over the pandemic, and lawmakers in states like Wisconsin are changing laws to prevent more from happening.
Their solution? To Decriminalize fentanyl testing strips. What does this mean? Why are so many people dying from overdoses? Let’s break down the situation.
What is fentanyl?
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid intended to treat patients with chronic severe pain or severe pain following surgery.
Illicit fentanyl, which is mainly manufactured in foreign labs and smuggled illegally into the U.S., is a significant contributor to fatal and nonfatal overdoses in the U.S. This drug is mixed with other illegal drugs such as heroin, methamphetamine and cocaine because of its extreme potency and low cost.
The dangers of synthetic opioids
The cost of overdosing on such a powerful drug is often deadly. According to DEA.gov, two milligrams of fentanyl can be lethal depending on a person’s size, tolerance and usage. Their analysis shows counterfeit pills ranging from .02 to 5.1 milligrams (more than twice a lethal dose) of fentanyl per tablet.
According to the CDC, to put into perspective how potent this drug is, it’s 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine.
The user can be completely unaware they are taking drugs with fentanyl because you can’t see, smell, or taste it. When a user unknowingly takes fentanyl, it is extremely dangerous and causes overdoses and deaths.
Drug overdoses at an all-time high
As tragic as it is, the fentanyl epidemic has become increasingly common, especially during the pandemic.
According to CDC.gov, 150 people die every day from overdoses related to synthetic opioids like fentanyl.
How fentanyl testing strips work
Fentanyl testing strips are $1 strips of paper that allow people to test drugs for hidden fentanyl. They are currently considered drug paraphernalia in most places, and anyone caught with a testing strip can be charged and convicted of a felony.
However, lawmakers in states like Wisconsin are taking steps to decriminalize testing strips. Advocates argue that preventing and reducing overdoses is worth the risk of allowing drug users to use them.
In Milwaukee, for example, Vivent Health doled out 46,000 testing strips to people across the state in 2021. Of the Milwaukee drug users who shared their results after testing, 79 percent found fentanyl present in heroin.
The future of prevention of fentanyl overdoses
Advocates around the country are pushing lawmakers to make changes to prevent more overdoses.
Many states are moving toward allowing the use of fentanyl strips, and some states have decriminalized the use or possession of all drug paraphernalia. Other states have followed the CDC’s approach and removed fentanyl strips from drug paraphernalia laws.
Lawmakers are finding more ways to prevent opioid overdoses from happening, and more states are expected to make changes to improve surveillance and monitoring for synthetic opioids like fentanyl.
A lawyer can keep you updated on state laws
The war on opioid drugs exists across the entire country, and states are making changes to stop overdoses. To learn how laws are changing in your state, talk to a local seasoned lawyer.
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