Overdose deaths are at a record high nationwide. The ubiquity of fentanyl and its analogues has much to do with the rise in overdose deaths. Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid 50-100x stronger than morphine, and its analogues which are often even more potent, have been found mixed in cocaine, heroin, MDMA/ecstasy/Molly, and pressed into pills -essentially anything purchased illicitly - often unbeknownst to both dealers and end users. This increases the risk of overdose for people who use any substance including people using for the first time. Now more than ever, harm reduction is an imperative.
Harm reduction saves lives and decreases potential harms associated with substance use. Harm reduction strategies include: syringe services programs; access to fentanyl test strips; overdose prevention centers, increased availability of naloxone and overdose prevention education and training so New Yorkers can recognize and respond to an overdose appropriately to reverse it; removal of barriers to treatment and to medications for treatment, Deterra medication disposal bag, reduction of stigma around substance use, substance use disorder, medications for addiction treatment, and towards people who use substances through anti-stigma work, public awareness campaigns; and grassroots work by peers, recovery supports, and prevention coalitions.
Fentanyl is lethal in small doses and undetectable by sight, smell, or taste. Test strips are a harm reduction tool that detects the presence of fentanyl mixed into a substance, such has cocaine or heroin.