**Fentanyl Test Strips Legalized in Massachusetts to Combat Overdose Crisis**

Boston, Massachusetts – The Massachusetts state Senate recently made a unanimous decision to legalize fentanyl test strips throughout the state. These paper indicators, once considered illegal drug paraphernalia, have gained recognition for their ability to detect the presence of the potent synthetic opioid, fentanyl, in various samples. The widespread use of these strips has been widely embraced by treatment organizations as a means to mitigate the harms associated with illicit drug use, as fentanyl has emerged as a leading cause of overdose deaths.

According to Sarah Wakeman, the senior medical director for Substance Use Disorder at Mass General Brigham, fentanyl test strips are small white rectangles that are dipped into a liquid substance containing a drug to determine the presence of fentanyl. In an era where the drug supply is heavily contaminated, these strips serve as a crucial tool in identifying fentanyl in substances that were once thought to be something else, like heroin or cocaine. The unintentional contamination of drugs, particularly by fentanyl, has contributed significantly to overdose deaths, making fentanyl test strips a valuable resource in promoting harm reduction and preventing fatal outcomes.

The presence of fentanyl in 93% of opioid-related overdose deaths in Massachusetts in 2022 highlights the urgent need for effective measures to address this public health crisis. The increasing prevalence of fentanyl in various street drugs underscores the importance of providing individuals with the knowledge and tools to make informed decisions about their drug use. Despite concerns about the potential impact of making fentanyl test strips more widely available, evidence suggests that harm reduction strategies, including providing access to naloxone, have been effective in saving lives and reducing overdose deaths in communities that have greater access to these resources.

Critics of fentanyl test strips argue that their availability may encourage drug use, but proponents emphasize that harm reduction interventions serve to empower individuals and promote safety rather than enable risky behavior. Overcoming stigma associated with drug use is also a crucial aspect of addressing the opioid crisis, as stereotypes and misconceptions often hinder efforts to implement effective public health interventions. By implementing comprehensive harm reduction strategies and challenging societal attitudes towards drug use, communities can work together to prevent overdose deaths and support individuals in making healthier choices.