ATLANTA - Georgia is one of more than 20 US states that have moved to decriminalize controversial fentanyl test strips.
As of July 1, 2022, the strips, which can detect a lethal synthetic opioid you cannot taste, or see, or smell, will be legal in Georgia.
Dr. Mojgan Zare, chief executive officer of the non-profit Atlanta Harm Reduction Coalition, says Georgia's move to legalize these strips, once considered drug paraphernalia, comes as fatal overdoses tied to fentanyl-laced drugs are rising across the US.
"You've got to remember that fentanyl is a very potent drug, it's about 100% more potent than something like morphine," Dr. Zare says.
In 2021, the CDC reports over 107,000 Americans died from a drug overdose, the highest number of drug-related deaths on record for in a single year.
More than half of the fatal overdoses involved synthetic opioids, primarily fentanyl.
The strips, Zare says, could save lives.
"They're a device you can insert into a drug and, if there is fentanyl in the drug, it will indicate it," she says. "So, if an individual is about to use a drug that they're not sure what's in it, and that it may have fentanyl in there, and they don't have any knowledge of it, it will let them know that it has fentanyl in there."
Because fentanyl is cheap and powerful, it is being mixed into street drugs like heroin, and, increasingly, counterfeit prescription pills, where even the smallest trace can be deadly.
"The reality is, in the black market, you're not sure exactly what you're getting," Dr. Zare says. "These may be truly prescription pills that may not have fentanyl in them, or these may be pills that have been mimicked as prescription pills but do have fentanyl in them."
Using the strips, which cost less than a dollar, is simple, Zare says.
You mix the drug with water to create a solution and dip the strip into it.
"If the pink line comes up, it's as easy as that," she says. "It will indicate that it has fentanyl in there."
Pills are harder to test, but Dr. Zare says, they can be dissolved in water to create a solution.
She is hoping once the tests are legal, more people will have access to them.
"For now, you can get them from non-profit organizations such as us," Zare says. "Just dip it in there. Make sure there is no fentanyl in there because it is not worth losing your life over it."