New Tennessee law allows for distribution of fentanyl testing strips

Fentanyl Test Strips
Posted at 4:46 PM, Oct 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-10-22 12:15:55-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — In 2021 alone, the country lost 70,000 Americans to fentanyl overdoses alone, and the numbers only seem to increase every year. That's why, earlier this year, Tennessee lawmakers passed a new law that would allow for the widespread use of fentanyl testing strips.

At Cumberland Heights Treatment Center, Dr. Chapman Sledge knows better than most what it's like to face up against addiction.

"Because it is so potent, it’s very easy to overdose," said Dr. Sledge, the chief medical officer of Cumberland Heights. "We see fentanyl all day every day. Fentanyl is ubiquitous in the world of drug abuse."

Fentanyl test strips are useful because the potent opiate is often laced into other drugs.

"You’re also seeing fentanyl in cocaine, in methamphetamine, it’s basically everywhere," said Dr. Sledge.

That's why Sledge believes it could be useful for a portion of the population.

"For people who have not crossed from casual use or abuse, problematic use to addiction, it may deter their use," said Sledge. "My concern is that for people with the disease of addiction, their brains have changed."

After all, we did tell you he would know better than most.

"I was drawn to the field of addiction medicine through my personal recovery," he said.

While Dr. Sledge never abused fentanyl, he's not sure if a test strip would have been a deterrent, especially once he was hooked.

"Risking my family, risking my health, risking my career, my profession, that I don’t know if a test strip would have derailed that compulsion," said Sledge.

For those in that situation, Dr. Sledge urges them to seek help. For the rest of us, he hopes we can find some compassion.

"To see this as a disease, like so many other diseases. It’s like saying if someone has a heart attack, when they show up at the hospital, we don’t say, ehh they did this to themselves," he said.

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction — call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

You can also reach out to Cumberland Heights Treatment Center by clicking here.