Drug test strips remain illegal in Texas despite recent rise in overdose deaths

After the CDC released new Data on drug overdose deaths on Wednesday, Texas’ ban on drug test strips is garnering increased attention.

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, more than 100,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2021, a 15% increase from the previous year. This increase is attributed to the challenges exacerbated by the pandemic: social isolation, loss of access to treatment and the spread of the deadly drug fentanyl 100 times more potent than morphine.

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Texas recorded 5,033 drug overdose deaths in 2021, a 19.8% increase from the previous year, still above the national average.

Under the Texas Controlled Substances Act, drug testing equipment is classified as a paraphernalia of drug use, making fentanyl test strips illegal. Texas lawmakers couldn’t get a bill this would have removed the criminal penalties for possessing drug test kits passed last year.

The Biden administration presented its National drug control strategy last month, which outlines actions to reduce opioid overdoses and deaths. The strategy will expand access to high-impact hard reduction tools like test strips and naloxone, a drug that quickly reverses an opioid overdose.

Harm reduction advocates say making naloxone more widely available and the inclusion of test kits and clean syringes are key to the state’s approach and will help save lives.

“Harm reduction is a strategy to keep people alive, educate them about their risk of overdose, prevent communicable infections, and optimize their health by treating them with dignity and respect. …We are losing people in their prime to overdose[s]said Dr. Kimberly Sue, assistant professor at Yale University School of Medicine and medical director of the National Harm Reduction Coalition, a nonprofit organization dedicated to scaling harm reduction strategies. risks.

Test strips can be used to test drugs, powders and pills for the presence of illicit compounds. The strips provide additional protection for people concerned that their medications or medications may be contaminated with fentanyl. Just two milligrams of fentanyl can be deadly. Sue says knowledge of the presence of fentanyl can inform people to make potentially life-saving decisions.

“The strips are very good at detecting the presence of fentanyl in a substance,” Sue said. “Anyone buying anything on the street, people think they’re buying Oxycodone or people think they’re buying Xanax. Those squeezed pills can be 100% fentanyl. They can have a little of fentanyl. Fentanyl is present in cocaine. … Wouldn’t you want them to know that what they are using is fentanyl?

In Harris County alone, fatal drug overdoses rose 52% from 2019 to 2021. County statistics show fentanyl-related deaths soared 341% over the same period, from 104 at 459.

Meanwhile, the Travis County Medical Examiner’s Office released 2021 The figures which showed that drug overdoses were the leading cause of accidental deaths for the first time in a decade. About a third of overdose deaths have been caused by fentanyl.

In response, Travis County Judge Andy Brown said Tuesday that he and his commissioners would consider declaring a public health crisis.

“At the state level, we should legalize fentanyl strips. It’s something that should be available to people in Texas, as it is for people in New Mexico,” Brown said during of a press conference.interview for local TV channel KXAN.

Brown said he would work with state lawmakers in next year’s session to eliminate the ban on drug test strips and invest more in treatment and recovery options. Sue says adopting national strategies is essential because the rise in fentanyl and stimulant-related deaths shows that drug criminalization policies have not worked.

“I’ve had people not coming to the clinic because they have substances on them or they have warrants for their arrest,” Sue said. “And they won’t have access to services. … I’ve seen my patients die because of these policies and I’ve seen it happen all over the country. It is very traumatic and difficult to do the work [of] caring for patients when decision makers make it very difficult for me to provide that care. »

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