For the first time in United States history, there were over 100,000 overdose deaths in a 12-month period. Fentanyl is increasingly more responsible for the rise of accidental overdoses. Currently more than 60% of drug overdose deaths involve fentanyl.
It is now more important than ever to know the risk of contamination of street drugs, signs of an overdose, and to carry naloxone.
Fentanyl Forms and Appearance
In the last few years, fentanyl has expanded from the East Coast to the West Coast and is found in all cities and within many rural communities. Fentanyl is found in various forms, including:
- Pills sold as fake oxycodone, Xanax and sought after medications (left)
- Powder form; sometimes mixed into other drugs such as cocaine, crystal meth, and heroin. When sold as a powder, fentanyl can look varying levels of off-white to light brown. When it is mixed into other powders, fentanyl tends to bring an off-brown color to the mixture.
- Prescribed fentanyl patches, but are mainly found in clinical settings.
The Rise and Concern of Counterfeit Pills
Authentic Prescription Pills and Counterfeit Imitations
Counterfeit 30mg Oxycodone pill
Counterfeit Xanax pill
Counterfeit 30mg Adderall front of pill
Counterfeit 30mg Adderall back of pill
Authentic 30mg Oxycodone pill
Authentic Xanax pill
Authentic 20mg Adderall front of pill
Authentic 20mg Adderall back of pill
Fentanyl Test Strips and Harm Reduction
Fentanyl test strips are a tool to test unregulated drugs for the contamination of fentanyl and various fentanyl analogs in powder and pill form. While helpful, it is important to keep the following notes in mind.
- Fentanyl test strips do not provide an amount or quantity of fentanyl present in the substance, which means there could be a lethal dose. They also do not test for all the fentanyl analogs. A negative result does not guarantee the substance being tested is free from fentanyl or other synthetic opioids.
- When using unregulated drugs, it is vital to employ safer drug use practices. The fentanyl test strips should not provide a false sense of security and should always be used in addition to safer drug use practices.
If using substances, it is important to employ safer drug use practices. These practices are about reducing adverse outcomes that can be caused by using drugs. As deadly doses of fentanyl continue to creep into the unregulated drug supply, these safer drug use tips can be life-saving.
Websites to visit for fentanyl test strips and information:
- China Girl
- China Town
- China White
- Dance Fever
- Great Bear
- Tango & Cash
The effects of taking fentanyl with other drugs – including over-the-counter or prescribed medications – can be unpredictable and dangerous, and could cause:
Fentanyl + alcohol may increase the risk of respiratory depression and possible overdose.
Fentanyl + benzodiazepines: may add to the sedative effects and diminished breathing and possible overdose.
Download the CDC Fact Sheet
For information on fentanyl and harm reduction, visit Harm Reduction Coalition’s website
For information on counterfeit pills and fentanyl, visit the DEA’s “One Pill Can Kill” campaign page
To find local syringe service providers, which can provide naloxone, fentanyl test strips, and information on harm reduction, visit Nasen’s map
For additional information and resources on fake fentanyl pills, visit Song For Charlie’s website