Fentanyl Test Strips Legalized in Mississippi

On July 1, 2023, the legalization of fentanyl test strips takes effect in Mississippi. The decriminalization of such materials will allow them to be used in harm reduction efforts across the state.

The timing could not come soon enough with Mississippi, much like the rest of the country, having seen dramatic increases in overdose deaths over the last few years.

According to data from the Mississippi State Department of Health, fentanyl is the main driver in the state’s fatal overdose spike. Between 2019 and 2020, fentanyl-related overdose deaths increased by 125%.

However, the Mississippi State Department of Health says, “Some of these tragic deaths could be prevented by two simple and effective harm reduction methods: increasing the availably and use of the opioid antidote naloxone and of fentanyl test strips (FTS) that can detect the presence of hidden fentanyl in any illicit drug.”

What Are Fentanyl Test Strips?

Fentanyl test strips are small strips of paper that can quickly detect whether illicit drugs, such as cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, and others, contain the highly potent synthetic opioid fentanyl.

Illicit drugs may be mixed with fentanyl because it takes far less of it to produce a high, making the drugs cheaper to produce. When people are unaware the drug they intend to take contains fentanyl, there is an increased risk of overdose.

Test strips are an inexpensive and easy way to test multiple substance forms, including injectables, pills, and powder.

Testing happens in a matter of minutes by mixing a small amount of a substance with water and dipping one end of the test strip into the mixture for about 15 seconds. Then, the test strip is removed from the mixture and laid flat. It is ready to be read in just 2 to 5 minutes.

Fentanyl test strips, like other tests, are not guaranteed to be 100% accurate. However, they have been found highly effective, making them extremely useful.

Why Were Fentanyl Test Strips Illegal?

Before being legalized, fentanyl test strips were classified as drug paraphernalia. This classification made it illegal for anyone to have them in the state of Mississippi.

Drug paraphernalia laws date back to the 1970s and 1980s with every state except Alaska having laws that made substance testing and analyzing materials illegal. These laws were put in place decades before fentanyl infiltrated the U.S. drug supply. 

In the present day, states are actively changing these outdated laws to legalize and therefore allow access to testing strips. Experts in the field of addiction science point to encouraging statistics that demonstrate their effectiveness as a harm reduction strategy.

Lowering the Risk of Fatal Overdose in Mississippi

Fentanyl test strips have been found to be tremendously valuable in lowering the risk of fatal overdose. The simple act of being able to test substances gives people the ability to make informed choices when deciding whether to consume a substance.

Studies have found several other benefits related to the use of test strips, including:

  • Promoting increased fentanyl awareness.
  • Leading people to take overdose prevention safety precautions if test strips detect fentanyl.
  • Changing substance use behavior in an effort to reduce the risk of overdose.

Mississippi now joins the majority of states in making fentanyl test strips legal. There is hope among the addiction treatment community that the remaining states will follow suit.

After all, why would states want to uphold barriers to life-saving tools that can prevent fatal overdoses?

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