Ohio decriminalized fentanyl test strips. Here's why experts say that matters

UC expert says a vast majority of people who use the test strips changed their drug use behavior

Public health agencies and advocates in Ohio will no longer be breaking the law when they hand out potentially life-saving fentanyl test strips. reported that Governor Mike DeWine signed a bill into law Jan. 3 decriminalizing the paper test strips that detect fentanyl and its analogues in drugs. The law takes effect sometime in April. Tasha Turner-Bicknell, director of public health nursing programs at the UC College of Nursing was one of the experts interviewed for the story. 

Turner-Bicknell, a board member of Harm Reduction Ohio, told it's about time this happened, because the detection strips are a life-saving strategy during an agonizing overdose death epidemic.

a woman sitting at a desk, looking at the camera while holding a pair of eyeglasses

Tasha Turner-Bicknell of the UC College of Nursing

The agencies and other groups that handed out the strips weren't being prosecuted, and most people using them weren't charged. But advocates say the law is a step in the right direction in addressing the opioid epidemic.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cleared the way for federal grant money to be used for fentanyl test strips in April 2021. Criminalizing fentanyl test strips also fueled stigma against people who use drugs, said Turner-Bicknell. A lot of people question whether such tools have any impact on people who use drugs, she said.

Turns out, they do. A vending machine outside nonprofit Caracole in Cincinnati's Northside neighborhood offers fentanyl test strips along with Narcan, safe-smoking kits and other "safe-use" products. And surveys from those who use the machine show that fentanyl test strips are making a difference.

"The surveys show that 85% of people who used fentanyl test strips said they changed their behavior with drugs by using these," Turner-Bicknell said. "People who use drugs will use the tools at their disposal to make decisions to protect their health."

Read the entire story here

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