A West Virginia University researcher will co-lead a study to learn more about the off-label use of rapid response fentanyl test strips as an opioid overdose prevention strategy.
“With the knowledge from this study, we will be able to provide better guidance to drug users and the agencies and organizations who serve them in order to save lives,” said Dr. Judith Feinberg, a Behavioral Medicine & Psychiatry professor with the School of Medicine.
The study is being funded by a $657,648 grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, part of the National Institutes of Health.
Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is 80-100 times stronger than morphine, has become an additive to heroin and other street drugs as a way to increase its potency. Many users who purchase heroin and other drugs do not know when it is laced with fentanyl, which often results in overdose deaths.
Fentanyl test strips are being used to detect if drugs have any trace of fentanyl. Knowing that a drug contains fentanyl can help prevent overdoses by allowing users to modify their behavior, such as not using the drug, doing a test dose first, using the drug with others who have naloxone or who can call 911 in case of an overdose, or changing their purchasing behaviors. On the other hand, some people may prefer fentanyl and may use the test strips to verify their purchases.
Although fentanyl test strips have become increasingly popular among drug users, there is little known about how and why people use them. The NIH-funded study will use surveys and one-on-one interviews to try and understand how the availability of fentanyl test strips affects drug use. The study will also help researchers better understand the risks that people who inject drugs are or are not willing to take.
Funding for the study by the NIH began July 1 and will conclude June 30, 2021.