(KHN)With clip moving retired successful the 2022 legislative session, Georgia lawmakers took up a measure to modulate earthy milk.
An amendment abruptly got tacked onto the House mentation of the bill, though the caller wording had thing to bash with dairy. The connection called for legalizing the usage of strips that trial drugs for fentanyl, a potent synthetic opioid fueling a question of fatal overdoses crossed Georgia and the U.S.
The amendment, said Sen. Jen Jordan, an Atlanta Democrat who sponsored it, was "a commonsense solution to prevention lives."
The revised beverage measure passed overwhelmingly connected the past time of the General Assembly session. If the measure doesn't gully a veto from Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, Georgia volition articulation a increasing database of states decriminalizing the usage of fentanyl investigating strips arsenic the drug's scourge has dispersed crossed the nation.
Governors successful New Mexico and Wisconsin this twelvemonth signed bills allowing trial strips successful those states, and legislatures successful Tennessee and Alabama precocious passed akin legislation. In Pennsylvania, though a authorities instrumentality prohibits trial strips, the mayors of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh person ordered bans connected prosecuting radical possessing them. The state's lawyer wide said helium won't complaint radical for having the trial strips. Alaska authorities wellness officials, horrified by a surge of overdose deaths, person started giving retired escaped trial strips. A vending instrumentality successful Ohio offers the fentanyl-detecting devices alongside naloxone, a medicine for reversing overdoses.
But the Florida legislature balked this year astatine a measure that would decriminalize the investigating strips. Fentanyl trial devices — prohibited nether cause paraphernalia laws adopted decades agone — stay amerciable successful astir fractional of states, cause argumentation experts say.
Many nationalist wellness and addiction experts, though, beforehand the accelerated investigating devices arsenic what's known arsenic a "harm reduction" maneuver to assistance forestall overdose deaths from illicit drugs that users whitethorn not cognize are laced with fentanyl.
"We anticipation each the states would travel to recognize the dangers of contamination are truthful precocious and that fentanyl trial strips empower a idiosyncratic taking drugs to cognize whether they person fentanyl," said Dr. Nora Volkow, manager of the National Institute connected Drug Abuse astatine the National Institutes of Health.
Street versions of fentanyl, an approved painkiller that's being produced illegally, mostly travel into the U.S. from Mexico. Fentanyl is up to 100 times arsenic almighty arsenic morphine. It is commonly recovered successful what is sold arsenic heroin — often taking its spot entirely. It besides tin be mixed into cocaine, methamphetamine, and counterfeit thoroughfare pills sold arsenic opioid medications — substances that galore buyers are not expecting to incorporate fentanyl.
The dispersed of fentanyl has helped pb to a stunning emergence successful cause overdose deaths. Synthetic opioids — including fentanyl — were progressive successful about two-thirds of U.S. cause overdose deaths in the 12-month play that ended successful November 2021. And three-quarters of overdose deaths from cocaine past twelvemonth were associated with fentanyl, Volkow said.
"Fentanyl is truthful potent that it tin halt your breathing astatine precise debased doses," she said.
The fentanyl epidemic besides "has exacerbated radical inequities," Volkow added. From 2019 to 2021, fentanyl overdose deaths much than tripled among teenagers — and surged fivefold among Black teens, according to an investigation of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention information produced by the advocacy radical Families Against Fentanyl.
This month, the Drug Enforcement Administration sent a missive to federal, state, and section instrumentality enforcement officials informing of a nationwide spike successful fentanyl-related mass-overdose events. "Fentanyl is sidesplitting Americans astatine an unprecedented rate," said DEA Administrator Anne Milgram. "Already this year, galore mass-overdose events person resulted successful dozens of overdoses and deaths."
The investigating strips are inexpensive, costing astir $1. A cause idiosyncratic tin instrumentality a tiny quantity of the substance, adhd water, and dip a portion concisely into the solution. If 1 reddish stripe appears connected the strip, fentanyl is present; 2 stripes mean nary of that cause is found.
A downside is that the trial strips don't gauge the magnitude of fentanyl successful the drug.
Still, the strips are effectual successful detecting "very tiny amounts of fentanyl," said Brown University epidemiologist Brandon Marshall, portion of a squad that has studied illicit cause users and the devices successful Rhode Island. Many of the participants who tried the strips, Marshall said, discarded the substance if fentanyl was present, utilized the cause with idiosyncratic other present, oregon had naloxone disposable during use.
A similar survey of North Carolina intravenous cause users recovered 3 successful 4 radical indicated that fentanyl strips made them consciousness amended capable to support themselves from overdose.
In South Carolina, which has made fentanyl trial strips available, the authorities sends an anonymous survey to anyone who receives them. Sara Goldsby, manager of the South Carolina Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services, said survey responses bespeak that radical who usage the strips study utilizing less drugs, with immoderate choosing not to usage the drugs altogether, and that they consciousness safer successful preventing overdoses.
The investigating strips, Brown's Marshall added, "are not going to beryllium a metallic slug to code the overdose crisis. But they tin beryllium an important instrumentality to assistance radical enactment safe."
In Georgia, wherever the investigating measure awaits the governor's approval, nationalist wellness officials said fentanyl-related overdose deaths jumped aft the commencement of the covid-19 pandemic, doubling betwixt May 1, 2020, and April 30, 2021, compared with the aforesaid span successful 2019 and 2020.
And fentanyl-related overdoses precocious spiked successful Savannah, Georgia, according to Dr. Jay Goldstein, aesculapian manager of the exigency section astatine Memorial Health. He said that galore overdose patients said they were amazed astatine the potency of the cause they had consumed, but helium fears that giving them strips won't stem its use.
"Sad to say, but immoderate users privation fentanyl successful their drugs due to the fact that it gives them a much aggravated high, though the hazard of crashing and burning is overmuch worse," helium said.
Current cause paraphernalia laws whitethorn discourage states oregon organizations from applying for grants to bargain trial strips oregon creating programs to administer them, said Jon Woodruff, elder legislative lawyer for the Legislative Analysis and Public Policy Association. But successful galore states that haven't decriminalized the strips, radical who person the papers aren't being prosecuted.
In Georgia, "people tin beryllium charged, but it's mostly not prosecuted, peculiarly if it's these investigating strips," said Pete Skandalakis, enforcement manager of the Prosecuting Attorneys' Council of Georgia, which supported the investigating strips amendment.
Despite the existent Georgia prohibition, the Atlanta Harm Reduction Coalition enactment said it distributes the strips to idiosyncratic cause users and different assemblage members.
Meanwhile, families successful Georgia who person seen loved ones dice from fentanyl overdoses enactment making the investigating strips much available.
Doreen Barr of Fayette County successful suburban Atlanta mislaid a lad to a operation dose of heroin and fentanyl 7 years ago. She has acceptable up a nonprofit instauration successful Ryan Barr's sanction to amended radical astir addiction.
Barr said she believes investigating strips tin prevention lives.
"Why not person the fentanyl strips?" she said. "Cocaine oregon a fake pill tin person fentanyl successful it. One clip could termination you. If they had a trial strip, possibly they wouldn't instrumentality it."
KHN South Carolina analogous Lauren Sausser contributed to this article.
KHN (Kaiser Health News) is simply a nationalist newsroom that produces in-depth journalism astir wellness issues. Together with Policy Analysis and Polling, KHN is 1 of the 3 large operating programs astatine KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation). KFF is an endowed nonprofit enactment providing accusation connected wellness issues to the nation.