Nfld. & Labrador

Fentanyl test strips will lower risk of drug overdoses: SWAP

Two harm-reduction workers are looking to use International Overdose Awareness Day as the stepping stone to get more fentanyl test strips distributed across Newfoundland and Labrador.

Overdose Awareness Day puts spotlight on way to know what drugs you are taking

Posters meant to draw attention to overdose awareness, during an event at Bannerman Park in St. John's Thursday. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

Two harm-reduction activists are looking to use International Overdose Awareness Day as a stepping stone to get more fentanyl test strips distributed across Newfoundland and Labrador.

Tree Walsh, of the Safe Works Access Program (SWAP), and Jen Smith, who has previously worked with safe injection sites in Vancouver, say the strips will help shift the focus from drug antidotes such as Naloxone to drug prevention.

Tree Walsh says using fentanyl testing strips can help prevent unintentional overdoses. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

By using the strips, which Smith said cost about $1 per use, drug users can determine whether a substance contains fentanyl before ingesting it.

"I think it's as important as the Naloxone," said Walsh. "If we can find ways to test the drugs and put it in the hands of people who use drugs so they can test what they have and know what they're dealing with."

Day of remembrance

On Thursday afternoon, a gathering was held at Bannerman Park to remember people who have died by overdose. 

"We've lost a significant number of people, unfortunately, to tainted drugs or unintentional overdoses and we'd like to remember them and then talk about what we can do to change things so we can stop this," said Walsh.

SWAP distributed inexpensive fentanyl test strips at an event to mark International Overdose Awareness Day in St. John's. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

About 100 fentanyl testing strips were available for purchase at the event, and Walsh hopes more will be supplied in the future.

"We're talking about anybody who may go downtown for a night and just pop a pill or do some other kind of drug after they've been partying for a while." said Smith.

"This could stop overdose and death for a significant amount of people." 

With files from the St. John's Morning Show