Federal grantees may now use funds to purchase fentanyl test strips

April 9, 2021

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) announced that federal funding may now be used to purchase rapid fentanyl test strips (FTS) in an effort to help curb the dramatic spike in drug overdose deaths largely driven by the use of strong synthetic opioids, including illicitly manufactured fentanyl. 

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid used for treating severe pain and is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. Most recent cases of fentanyl-related harm, overdose and death in the United States are linked to illicitly made fentanyl. It is often mixed with heroin and/or cocaine to increase its euphoric effects. The risk of overdose exists when any fentanyl is present given its potency and lethality, but risk is especially high among persons who are not tolerant to it and may not be aware of the presence of fentanyl in what they are using. 

FTS can be used to determine if drugs have been mixed or cut with fentanyl, providing people who use drugs and communities with important information about fentanyl in the illicit drug supply so they can take steps to reduce their risk of overdose. 

“This is a major step forward in the ongoing and critical work to prevent overdose and connect people who have substance use disorders to evidence-based treatment options,” said Acting Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use Tom Coderre, the interim leader at SAMHSA. “This will save lives by providing tools to identify the growing presence of fentanyl in the nation’s illicit drug supply and – partnered with referrals to treatment – complement SAMHSA’s daily work to direct help to more Americans.” 

Approximately 88,000 drug overdose deaths occurred in the United States in the 12 months ending in August 2020, the highest number of overdose deaths ever recorded in a 12-month period, according to provisional data from CDC, and overdose deaths have continued to accelerate during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Overdose response programs funded through the following awards will be directly impacted and can now use program funds to purchase FTS. 

CDC’s multiyear Overdose Data to Action cooperative agreement began in September 2019 and funds health departments in 47 states; Washington, D.C.; two territories; and 16 cities and counties for drug overdose surveillance and prevention efforts. Funds awarded as part of this agreement support health departments in obtaining high quality, more comprehensive, and timelier data on overdose morbidity and mortality and using those data to implement prevention and response efforts. 

SAMHSA’s State Opioid Response (SOR) grant aims to address the opioid crisis by increasing access to medication-assisted treatment, reducing unmet treatment need and reducing opioid overdose-related deaths through supporting prevention, treatment, and recovery activities for opioid use disorder. SOR supplements current state and territory opioid-related activities and supports a comprehensive response to the opioid epidemic. 

CDC has the release