Pennsylvania House moves to legalize fentanyl test strips

Drug overdose deaths have risen sharply in Pennsylvania in recent years, and the General Assembly is taking harm-reduction efforts more seriously than in the past.

On Monday, the House unanimously passed a bill, HB1393, that would legalize fentanyl test strips for personal use so drug users could know the purity of their substances. The strips are currently classified as drug paraphernalia and illegal.

Pennsylvania is third in the nation for overdose drug deaths, with 5,360 people dying in 2021, as The Center Square previously reported. The death rate due to drug overdoses has dramatically jumped from 26.2 per 100,000 people in 2015 to 42.4 in 2020.

A report from the attorney general’s office blames the increase on fentanyl displacing heroin in the commonwealth’s drug supply, even as seizures of fentanyl have massively increased. The report called for legalizing test strips as well as more treatment programs.

That harm-reduction approach is shared by House legislators.

“By allowing those who are in the grip of addiction to possess and use test strips to assure their own safety, we will be able to prevent overdoses,” Rep. Jim Struzzi, R-Indiana, wrote in a legislative memo. “As the opioid epidemic reaches catastrophic levels in Pennsylvania, we must continue to make laws and policies that work to save lives.”

Legalizing test strips has become more common in states struggling to tamp down overdose deaths.

New Mexico and Wisconsin legalized them in 2022, as Kaiser Health News reported, and the Tennessee and Alabama legislatures have approved similar bills. Test strips remain illegal for personal use in about half of U.S. states.

Some studies have found that using fentanyl test strips causes users to change how much of a drug they take and lowers the odds of an overdose.

The bill awaits further action in the Senate.


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