Two harm-reduction activists are looking to use International Overdose Awareness Day as a stepping stone to get more fentanyl test strips distributed across Newfoundland and Labrador.
Tree Walsh, of the Safe Works Access Program (SWAP), and Jen Smith, who has previously worked with safe injection sites in Vancouver, say the strips will help shift the focus from drug antidotes such as Naloxone to drug prevention.
By using the strips, which Smith said cost about $1 per use, drug users can determine whether a substance contains fentanyl before ingesting it.
“I think it’s as important as the Naloxone,” said Walsh. “If we can find ways to test the drugs and put it in the hands of people who use drugs so they can test what they have and know what they’re dealing with.”
Day of remembrance
On Thursday afternoon, a gathering is planned at Bannerman Park to remember people who have died by overdose.
“We’ve lost a significant number of people, unfortunately, to tainted drugs or unintentional overdoses and we’d like to remember them and then talk about what we can do to change things so we can stop this,” said Walsh.
Smith added that there will be 100 fentanyl testing strips available for purchase at the event, and that she hopes more will be supplied in the future.
“We’re talking about anybody who may go downtown for a night and just pop a pill or do some other kind of drug after they’ve been partying for a while.” said Smith.
“This could stop overdose and death for a significant amount of people.”