The overdose epidemic has been exacerbated by a dramatic increase in deaths involving illicitly manufactured fentanyl (IMF). Drug checking is a novel strategy to identify IMF in illicit drugs. We examined the uptake and acceptability of rapid fentanyl test strips among young adults.
From May to September 2017, we recruited 93 young adults in Rhode Island who reported injecting drugs or using heroin, cocaine, or illicitly obtained prescription pills in the past 30 days. Participants were asked to test either their urine after drug use (post-consumption) or a drug sample prior to use (pre-consumption) using rapid fentanyl test strips. After a questionnaire and a brief training, participants received ten strips for their personal use and were asked to return for a one-month follow-up visit, which assessed the uptake and acceptability of the rapid strips tests and the behavioral outcomes associated with receipt of a positive test.
Of the 81 (87%) participants who returned for follow-up and who had complete data, the mean age was 27, 45 (56%) were male, and 37 (46%) were non-white. A total of 62 participants (77%) reported using at least one test strip. Of these, 31 (50%) received at least one positive result. A positive result was associated with older age, homelessness, heroin use, injection drug use, ever witnessing an overdose, and concern about overdose or drugs being laced with fentanyl (all p < 0.05). Receiving a positive result was significantly associated with reporting a positive change in overdose risk behavior between baseline and follow-up (p ≤ 0.01). Among all participants, 79 (98%) reported confidence in their ability to use the test strips and 77 (95%) wanted to use them in the future.
Young adults reported high uptake and acceptability of fentanyl test strips to detect IMF in illicit drugs.