The opioid epidemic has continues to rage on. In 2017 President Trump threw down the gauntlet, agreeing to end the opioid crisis and bring opioid manufacturers to justice. That is easier said than done. The state of Virginia is now offering fentanly strips to those formerly incarcerated in order to wean them off of fentanyl:

A Virginia county on Wednesday began distributing fentanyl test strips to people leaving jail. The preventive effort to help people detect the powerful opioid, which is often mixed with other drugs, was launched in the wake of rising overdose numbers.

Officials in Arlington County, just south of Washington D.C., announced the change on Tuesday, saying in a news release that departing inmates “who suffer from opioid use disorder” would receive the strips in an “emergency release bag” that also contains a box of overdose-reversing naloxone nasal spray. 

Other local governments around the country have also begun distributing the strips, or allowing people to have them, although the tests are restricted in some places by state drug laws …

In Arlington County, at least two dozen bags containing the test strips will likely be distributed each month, said Aubrey Graham, the county’s jail-based behavioral health manager.

“On average, we are identifying 20 to 25 individuals a month who meet criteria for an opioid use disorder. That number has slowly increased each month since we began to track this data, and I only expect it to keep rising,” she said in a statement. “Not everyone is in a place where they are ready to enter treatment, but if we can at least keep them safe, we have accomplished something.”

The test strips, a relatively new technology, were originally developed to detect fentanyl in urine and work similarly to at-home pregnancy tests. Opioid users are instructed to dissolve a small amount of their drug—typically powder or a crushed pill—in water, then submerge the strip for at least 10 seconds before placing it on a flat surface to dry, according to an information sheet from the Cook County Health Department in Illinois. Results are available after one to two minutes, with one line typically indicating the presence of fentanyl, though instructions may vary depending on the brand of the strip.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drug overdose deaths were an estimated 93,000, up 30% Y/Y. The record number of drug overdoses came as opioid prescriptions were cut dramatically. The prevailing theory was that opioid prescriptions were driving the spike in opioid-related drug overdoses. Now the excuse is that the pandemic left millions stuck at home and depressed. The lack of contact with others and potentially, the lack of access to resources for treatment and prevention may have led to the spike drug overdoses.

Offering fentanyl strips to formerly incarcerated individuals could be safer and more efficient than rehabilitation pursuant to getting people off of fentanyl. The populace also turned to opioids on the black market, which were likely much less-safe than taking opioids approved by the FDA. At the end of the day, things other than opioid manufacturers are driving the opioid epidemic and opioid-related overdoses. The opioid epidemic may not end anytime soon. Whether fentanyl strips are effective remains to be seen.


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