REGINA — Drug checking strips to identify fentanyl and benzodiazepine are now available to take home at more locations across Saskatchewan, as an additional harm reduction measure from the provincial government.
The take home strips, for the use of the general public for at-home drug checking, are a new measure meant to help curb overdose deaths by warning about dangerous sedatives mixed into other substances.
"This is a major step to help reduce the risk of overdoses throughout Saskatchewan," said Jason Mercredi, executive director at Prairie Harm Reduction.
Prairie Harm Reduction is one of the many partners working with the province to distribute the test strips in both rural and urban areas of the province.
Saskatchewan has seen a rise in overdose deaths, with 149 confirmed accidental drug toxicity deaths recorded in 2021.
Of those deaths, 108 or 72 per cent involved fentanyl, a substance noted to be 50 to 100 times more toxic than other opioids and that often cannot be detected when mixed with other drugs.
The test strips check if certain fentanyl or other benzodiazepine compounds are present in the portion of drugs tested. A negative result doesn’t necessarily mean a substance is safe, and a positive result cannot indicate which benzo compound or how much is present.
The test strips are another harm reduction tool provided to the public to help avoid potential overdoses, as part of a $2.6 million investment into harm reduction initiatives from the provincial government.
Take-home Naloxone kits are also available at select locations, although health experts remind the public Naloxone is not effective in counteracting benzos when mixed with opioids.
A list of locations where test strips and Naloxone kits are available to pick up, as well as other information regarding safe drug use, can be found at saskatchewan.ca/opiods.