Testing to detect tainted street drugs now available in Saskatoon and Regina
SASKATOON -- Street drug users in Saskatoon and Regina will now be able to test if drugs contain two potentially deadly substances.
On Tuesday the Government of Saskatchewan announced fentanyl and benzodiazepine (benzo) test strips are available in the province's two largest cities.
Of the 73 confirmed opioid-related deaths in 2021, 66 per cent involved fentanyl which is 50-100 times more toxic than other opioids, the province said in a news release.
Often drugs users don't know if there is fentanyl present in the drugs they are using.
"We have seen the devastating impact that fentanyl has had on so many Saskatchewan families and communities," mental health and addictions minister Everett Hindley said in the release.
The stips are available to clients at Newo Yotina Friendship Centre in Regina and at Prairie Harm Reduction in Saskatoon.
Prairie Harm Reduction executive director Jason Mercredi says the site started using the strips on Tuesday and clients "seem to be receptive."
"It's good because it's another tool to help us prevent overdose deaths," Mercredi told CTV News.
"We can provide better drug education to them and they're much more receptive when they know if there's fentanyl or benzo in their drugs."
Mercredi says the strips will help the community stay safer by having real time information as the site will be collecting data and tracking how many tests identify fentanyl and benzodiazepine.
"(It will) allow us to send out drug alerts a lot quicker and we're hopeful for the future because the province is funding this and hopefully they'll start funding our safe consumption site next year," Mercredi said.
Mercredi says the site has a couple hundred strips and will receive more as needed.
Staff at both locations have received training on the proper use of the strips, according to the province.
"Adding drug testing, with the support of the Saskatchewan Ministry of Health, will further enhance our ability to reduce harm in our community," said Newo Yotina Friendship Centre executive director Michael Parker.
The province emphasizes that the absence of the two substances does not necessarily mean the drugs are safe.
The test strips also do not reveal the amount of fentanyl or benzodiazepine that is present when there is a positive result.