As overdoses soar, fentanyl test strips remain illegal in Florida

Advocates say they’re a tool that can save lives from fentanyl overdoses, but they’re outlawed in Florida.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Advocates say it’s a tool that can save lives from fentanyl overdoses, but they’re outlawed in Florida.

They’re Fentanyl drug test strips, which could detect the drug. Because they’re considered drug paraphernalia, the test strips are illegal in the state. They aren’t approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

First responders answer hundreds of 911 calls a month, and those include drug overdoses. Narcan is used to reverse overdose, but the strips could prevent them.

I talked with a man who asked to be called Gary Gilbert. He said he’s used drugs for 10 years, varying from marijuana, to LSD or cocaine.

He knows a drug could be laced with fentanyl and wishes the test strips were available.

“You can’t trust your buddy,” Gilbert said. “You don’t know where he got it from or his person got it from.”

I found the fentanyl test strips online, but before I could buy it, a message said: “It can not be shipped to your selected delivery location.”

The test is inexpensive and gives results in about five minutes.

Dr. Marcus De Carvalho has been working with people living with addiction since 2008.

“People are going to continue buying drugs off the street,” he said. “That person may want to be able to do the test at home to make sure here there is no fentanyl in this.”

Some states like New Mexico and Wisconsin have allowed the test strips.

“If I am going to be taking something, I would love to be able to test it and say, ‘Hey, I know exactly what is in this and not but left to a hunch,’” Gilbert said.

He hopes that people stop demonizing drug users as the rate of overdoses from fentanyl continue to skyrocket.

Records from the Duval County Medical Examiner’s Office show that since Jan. 1, there have been at least 465 cases in which fentanyl was detected.

The Florida Legislature did have a chance to consider decriminalizing the test strips, but nothing was passed into law.

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