Fentanyl has exploded in Ohio as the leading cause of overdose deaths. Now, a new bill in the Ohio House would decriminalize fentanyl test strips, allowing people to identify bad-batch drugs before an accidental overdose.
House Bill 456 would decriminalize fentanyl drug testing strips, which detect the tasteless, colorless opioid that often creeps its way into other drugs like cocaine, meth, heroine and Adderall.
Currently classified as paraphernalia, fentanyl test strips have started popping up in bar bathrooms across Cincinnati as a way to reduce accidental overdoses from party drugs, an issue Harm Reduction Ohio has been tracking with the help of state agencies that collect overdose data.
Officials from Harm Reduction Ohio say that around 5,300 Ohioans died of an overdose in 2021, and 1,497 of those deaths were cocaine related. Data from the Ohio Department of Health on mortality shows that at least 1,083 of those cocaine deaths were caused by laced fentanyl.
The standard protocol to test a batch of drugs for fentanyl involves dissolving a small amount of the drug in water and dipping a detection strip into it for 15 seconds. The strip then is placed on a flat surface for five minutes, when colored lines will indicate whether or not fentanyl is present. Typically, one line indicates that there is fentanyl in the drug and two lines means there isn’t, but packaging will show instructions and how to determine if the test was valid.
Public comment on the bill will start in the coming weeks, but so far there has been no pushback from house members.
Hamilton County residents can now request free fentanyl test strip kits by texting "FTS" to 22999. The test strips are free, and no name is required to receive them – just an address.
Harm Reduction Ohio also offers free naloxone and fentanyl test strips on its website. Participants must complete a training video to place an order. Those who are looking for in-person training and supplies can email CCS at [email protected]. For more information on Harm Reduction Ohio, and to learn how you can order fentanyl test strips, visit harmreductionohio.org.