Fentanyl test strips could soon be legal in Georgia

This May 10, 2018 photo shows an arrangement of fentanyl test strips in New York. Sales of fentanyl test strips have exploded as a growing number of overdose-prevention programs hand them out to people who use illicit drugs. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

If your doctor prescribes you fentanyl, it’s a given you’re in pretty bad shape. The synthetic pain killer is reserved for late-stage cancers or serious surgeries. It’s the type of drug you get when morphine won’t cut it —  as it’s up to 100 times more potent.

Or you can get it from your local street-level drug dealer —  more often, in Georgia, whether you want it or not.

The Georgia Department of Public Health is warning because it takes so little to have an effect, illicit drug producers are adding it to heroin, cocaine, and even MDMA and methamphetamines. It’s cheaper that way. That’s caused a huge spike in overdose deaths, including here in Georgia.

State public health officials warn that fentanyl overdose emergency room visits and overdose deaths in metro Atlanta have been increasing since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Between May 1, 2020 and April 30, 2021, fentanyl-involved overdose deaths increased 106.2 percent compared to the same time period the previous year.

It turns out there’s a cheap and simple remedy: a strip that, when dipped in a liquid sample, tells whether fentanyl is present.

The problem is that it’s illegal in Georgia to have one of the strips. Southern Bureau Chief for Kaiser Health News Andy Miller wrote about how that illegality is likely to change soon.

Lily Oppenheimer contributed to this report.