Universities should provide fentanyl testing strips

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Photo Credit: Mel Westfall | Daily Texan Staff

 I tell my friends to contact me if they need their drugs tested. I was inspired to do this after observing the dangers of risky substance use and then learning that simple ways to mitigate harm exist. In one instance of purity testing, “molly,” also known as MDMA, was actually methamphetamine. In another, it was bath salts.

However, methamphetamine and bath salts are not what I’m worried about. I’m worried about fentanyl: a deadly synthetic opioid lethal at the small dose of only 3 milligrams, a fraction of a penny.

Dealers cut other drugs with fentanyl because fentanyl is cheap­ — disguising fentanyl as a more expensive drug can lead to profit. Fentanyl has been found in a large range of substances, from cocaine to hydrocodone, putting many people who experiment with drugs at risk.

Data collected from safe injection facilities in Canada indicate there has been a 2,000 percent rise in street drugs testing positive for fentanyl since 2012. Although the United States does not have safe injection facilities to collect such information, there is clear cause for concern because people are dying en masse. In one study from public health experts, the average projection of opioid-related deaths in the United States in the next decade is nearly 500,000. This represents an increase from the 33,000 people that died in 2015.

60.1 percent of heroin samples in Canada tested positive for fentanyl, while 1.8 percent of cocaine and 1.7 percent of methamphetamine tested positive. Fentanyl has also been found in Xanax. For example, rapper Lil Peep overdosed in December after his Xanax was laced with fentanyl.

We need comprehensive solutions to the opioid epidemic as drug consumption rates have failed to decrease despite years of abstinence-based D.A.R.E. education and more than $1 trillion spent. With the knowledge that addiction is a persisting issue and that college is an environment of experimental drug use, universities should take extra precautions. Lives will be saved if universities provide fentanyl testing strips, which can indicate the presence of fentanyl in a substance, to students upon request.

From my experiences within the harm reduction community, I know anxiety is rampant among college students, and that students without a prescription for Xanax, sometimes due to lack of health insurance, frequently seek the drug from unknown sources.

While only 1.1 percent of students at UT-Austin admitted to using cocaine in the past 30 days, this is likely to be underreported. When UT students were interviewed about their peers’ usage, they estimated that 35 percent of students used cocaine.

Although the test strips cannot guarantee absolute safety because they cannot detect every variation of fentanyl, making a quantity of fentanyl testing strips available to students at University health buildings, perhaps in a dispenser, is a step in the right direction. A step toward safety.

Fentanyl testing strips can be ordered at: dancesafe.org/shop

Sims is an international relations and global studies sophomore from Houston.