(CNN)A controversial tool has emerged in the fight against opioid overdose deaths. It’s a strip that allows people who use street drugs such as cocaine and heroin to test whether their drugs are laced with fentanyl.
If the drugs test positive, they might choose not to use them or choose to use less of them.
According to a new report by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fentanyl is now the deadliest drug in America and was linked to nearly 29% of all overdose deaths in 2016. The synthetic opioid is about 80 to 100 times stronger than morphine and produces a powerful high. It’s cheap and sometimes mixed into street drugs without the buyer even knowing. Given its potency, it can be deadly.
Fentanyl test strip technology was originally developed by a Canadian biotech company BTNX to test urine samples for the presence of the drug, but the strips work basically the same way when they’re dipped in the residue of cooked heroin or when a little water is added to empty baggies of cocaine.
It works like a pregnancy test in reverse. One line on the strip suggests that the drugs are positive for fentanyl. Two lines is interpreted as a negative result.
In a study, researchers at Johns Hopkins and Brown University determined that the test strips worked to detect even low concentrations of fentanyl in street drugs.
“Our findings bring to the table evidence that can inform a public health approach to the fentanyl crisis. Smart strategies that reduce harm can save lives,” Susan Sherman, a co-author on the study, said in a news release.
According to the study, several programs in the United States that distribute clean syringes to people who use drugs have started to distribute fentanyl test strips, as well.
In Los Angeles County, emergency departments, first responders and other heath care workers have been advised to discuss the potential risks and benefits of the strips with patients who use street drugs.
The test strips aren’t 100% effective at eliminating the risk of overdose, since they don’t identify all forms of fentanyl and can produce false negatives. They also don’t let users know how much fentanyl the drugs contain.
Still, the researchers see an opportunity to halt the increase in fentanyl-related overdose deaths.
“We are at a pivotal moment in the overdose epidemic, and we need to embrace the full range of interventions that can save lives,” Sherman said.
In a video, the Urban Survivor’s Union, an organization that advocates on behalf of drug users, offers instructions on how to use the strips and what to do if the results are positive.
“Let’s say you had some drugs you were going to inject. … If it tests positive, you have options,” the video explains. “One, you can shoot half back into another sterile syringe, which may not only be life-saving but also cost-effective. Or two, you may even choose not to do it.”
The concept of drug checking has jarred some.
The Trump administration’s assistant secretary of Health and Human Services for mental Health and substance use, Dr. Elinore McCance-Katz, has expressed ardent opposition to the use of the fentanyl test strips.
In a blog post, Katz laid out several reasons. Among them is a concern that even if people who use drugs know that their drugs are laced with fentanyl, they will still use the drugs, despite the apparent danger. They might also use the strips to seek out drugs that contain fentanyl to achieve a stronger high.
“We can’t afford to create a false sense of security. … Let’s not rationalize putting tools in place to help them continue their lifestyle more ‘safely,’ ” McCance-Katz said.
California is going to ban anyone under 21 from buying rifles, shotguns and semiautomatic weapons.
California, which is believed to have one of the toughest gun laws in the United States, is going to make it stricter in 2019.
The state is going to ban anyone under the age of 21 from buying rifles, shotguns and semiautomatic weapons. It is also contemplating a lifetime ban on gun ownership for California residents convicted of serious acts of domestic violence.
“We are in a state of chaos. In the city in which I live, I hear and see examples of chaos almost every day. Little children are victims of senseless gun violence…”
Two years ago, 11-year-old Milwaukee schoolgirl Sandra Parks wrote these words in an award-winning essay about the murders in her city.
On Monday night, aged 13, she was shot by a stray bullet fired into her home.
Her frantic family called 911, but Sandra died at the scene.
The girl’s mother, Bernice Parks, told police she had gone to bed early while her children watched TV. She woke to the sound of gunshots shortly before 20:00, and found her daughter bleeding on the floor.
“She said, ‘Momma, I’m shot. Call the police,'” Ms Parks told TV station WITI. “I looked at her. She didn’t cry. She wasn’t hollering. She was just so peaceful… She didn’t deserve to leave this world like that.”
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett described the situation as “insanity”, telling reporters: “Tragically, her death was caused by someone who just decided they were going to shoot bullets into her house, and she’s dead. A 13-year-old, on Thanksgiving week, on a school night, in her bedroom, and she died.”
Mr Barrett speculated that the shooter may have wanted to “settle a score, express anger, try to scare someone”, saying on Tuesday: “All we know is that a 13-year-old died last night in her bedroom.”
Mr Barnes’ ex-girlfriend reportedly flagged his possible involvement to a police officer at the scene. She said he had approached her parked car on a nearby street carrying an assault-style rifle and wearing a mask.
She said he swore at her and told her “you lucky the kids are in the car. I was gonna fan you down.”
Police found Mr Barnes in a nearby home, hiding in a closet.
In Alabama on Thursday, one person was killed and two injured following a shooting at mall on the evening prior to Black Friday shopping. Police said a fight between two people, believed to be adults, led to an exchange of gunfire.
In Indiana, three people were killed and two injured in a Thursday night shooting at a private home. Police responded to a call at the home around 10:25pm local time. Two men and one woman were killed and two men were injured and are in critical condition.
In Florida, police shot and wounded an unarmed teenage boy while responding to a domestic disturbance call. Authorities say the 15-year-old was shot in the lower torso during a struggle with four police officers. The boy is reported to be in a stable condition.
The U.S. Treasury Department has fined ExxonMobil $2 million for violating U.S. sanctions against Russia three years ago, when Secretary of State Rex Tillerson served as the oil company’s CEO. The Treasury said ExxonMobil showed “reckless disregard” for U.S. law in 2014 when it signed contracts with Russian oil magnate Igor Sechin to develop offshore reserves in the Arctic. The move violated sanctions placed on Russia after it invaded Ukraine and annexed the Crimean peninsula. Tillerson said at the time his company opposed Russia sanctions, calling them “ineffective.” At the State Department Thursday, spokesperson Heather Nauert was asked whether Tillerson had changed his views on Russian sanctions.
Heather Nauert: “This all predates his time here at the Department of State.”
Matthew Lee: “I understand that.”
Heather Nauert: “And so, I’m going to refrain from giving any comment on that at this time.”
Matthew Lee: “I understand this predates his time as secretary of state, but now he is in a position in which he is part of the team that is supposed to enforce sanctions, not violate them or allow others to violate them, so I think it’s relevant to know what he thinks about this decision today.”
Heather Nauert: “I think—I will say this. The secretary continues to abide by his ethical commitments, including that recusal from Exxon-related activities.”
Secretary of State Tillerson is known to have close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who awarded Tillerson the country’s Order of Friendship decoration in 2013. The Treasury Department’s $2 million fine against ExxonMobil was the maximum amount allowed by law. It represents just over two hours’ profit for the oil giant.
Let’s have a big hand for all of my fellow Amerikans who voted for Comrade Trump. Stupid is as stupid does, and evil is what evil does.