With the rise of dangerous synthetic opioids, like fentanyl, people who use drugs are at higher risk for accidental overdoses and drug-related deaths. Many communities have realized the potential of drug checking and test strips to save lives. Read on to learn more about drug testing kits, the opioid epidemic, and how to find drug testing kits near you.

What Is Drug Checking?

Drug checking is a harm-reduction process of testing drugs to understand their contents and purity level. This allows for safer use and reduces the likelihood of fatal overdoses among those who use drugs. Some substances, particularly opioids, are commonly laced with an extremely potent, synthetic opioid called fentanyl. Fentanyl is over 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine.

Research shows that drug checking helps people change their drug use behaviors when substances test positive for fentanyl. By checking drugs, people can avoid more dangerous substances and drug combinations. Understanding the potency of a substance can also encourage safer dosing, potentially lowering the chances of overdose.

The Opioid Crisis and the Rise in Overdoses

The opioid epidemic has wreaked havoc on many U.S. communities. From 2020 to 2021, opioid-related deaths rose by 15%. Researchers often divide the opioid crisis into three waves, starting with the overprescription of opioids in the 90s. They categorize the second wave by a rapid increase in heroin-involved deaths in 2010. The third wave began in 2013, with dramatic rises in opioid deaths related to fentanyl. Today, the opioid epidemic has claimed thousands of lives. Here are some statistics on the opioid crisis and the rise in overdoses:

  • From 1999 to 2021, almost 645,000 people died from overdoses involving prescription or illicit opioids.
  • Between 2021 and 2022, 8.9 million people aged 12 or older reported misusing opioids, such as heroin or prescription pain relievers.
  • In 2021, over 75% of the nearly 107,000 drug overdose deaths were opioid-related.

How Do Drug Test Kits Work?

People who use drugs can access drug-checking services in different ways. Most harm-reduction programs provide drug-checking kits, where you can check the contents of substances on your own. These kits typically include fentanyl testing strips.

Individuals can also bring substances to harm-reduction labs. These facilities use methods like infrared spectrometry, to analyze the type of substance, its purity, and any adulterants that may be present. During this process, technicians shine an infrared light at the sample and measure how the light is absorbed. Each substance has a unique light-absorbing pattern, so technicians can tell if other drugs are present.

Some harm-reduction nonprofits also provide drug-checking kits so you can test substances at home. These kits come with testing strips and reagents. Testing strips reveal if the particular substance you’re testing for is present. Reagents are chemical drops that change color depending on the type of substance. Though they can cast a broader net, indicating when a substance is not reacting as expected, they do not inform you of the substance’s exact contents.

Fentanyl Test Kits

Many harm-reduction programs provide fentanyl testing strips. These strips can tell you whether fentanyl is present in your substances. Still, you won’t know the specific amount or how strong it is. Fentanyl test strips are easy to use, and most are about 96% accurate in detecting fentanyl and fentanyl analogs. There are three methods to test substances using fentanyl test strips.

Method One

  1. Dissolve all the substances you plan to use in water and mix.
  2. Place the test strip in the water and let it absorb for 15 seconds.
  3. Remove the strip and set it on a flat surface for two minutes. Check the results.

Method Two

  1. Finely crush the substances on a clean surface.
  2. Put them in a small plastic bag, and shake the bag to mix them.
  3. Empty the bag and ensure residue is left inside.
  4. Add water to the bag, and place the strip in for 15 seconds.
  5. Remove the strip and set it on a flat surface for two minutes. Check the results.

Method Three

  1. Put 10 milligrams of the substance you plan to take in a clean, dry container.
  2. Add water and place the strip in for 15 seconds.
  3. Remove the strip and set it on a flat surface for two minutes.
  4. Check the results.

The results will either be negative or positive. A positive result will reveal one red line, while a negative one will reveal two.

While fentanyl test strips typically are highly accurate when used appropriately, no drug test is completely accurate, so users must be aware that the substances could still contain fentanyl or another synthetic opioid.

Where to Get Drug Test Kits

You can find drug-checking kits at many harm-reduction organizations, including needle exchange programs, community-based organizations, and your local health department. Some offer free fentanyl testing strips and other harm-reduction services. You can also buy drug-checking kits online.


  1. https://www.cdc.gov/opioids/basics/epidemic.html
  2. https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/reports/rpt42731/2022-nsduh-main-highlights.pdf
  3. https://www.cdc.gov/stopoverdose/fentanyl/fentanyl-test-strips.html
  4. https://nida.nih.gov/research-topics/drug-checking
  5. https://dancesafe.org/drug-checking/

Where do calls go?

Calls to numbers on a specific treatment center listing will be routed to that treatment center. Calls to any general helpline will be answered or returned by one of the treatment providers listed, each of which is a paid advertiser: Rehab Media Group, Recovery Helpline, Alli Addiction Services.

By calling the helpline you agree to the terms of use. We do not receive any commission or fee that is dependent upon which treatment provider a caller chooses. There is no obligation to enter treatment.