What is fentanyl and why should I test for it?

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is about 50 times stronger than heroin. It is used medically for the treatment of severe pain in New Zealand. Over the last several years, places like the USA and Canada have had fentanyl laced in many of their drugs, which has led to over 100,000 deaths.

Fentanyl and its analogues are dangerous, even in very small doses. If people take fentanyl without realizing, they can experience an opioid overdose quickly- and if they don’t receive medical treatment, they may die.

While New Zealand doesn’t currently have fentanyl laced in our drug supply, there is always risk. It's a good idea to test for fentanyl, especially if you aren’t sure what drug you have.

What is a fentanyl test strip and how does it work?

Fentanyl test strips are chemical tests that detect the presence of fentanyl and many of its analogues in a drug sample.

The two most common tests are the Dancesafe fentanyl test strips and the BTNX Rapid Response strips.

We prefer using the Dancesafe fentanyl test strips as these have been found to be more reliable than the BTNX Rapid Response test strips. You can order five of these fentanyl test strips for free (including postage!) from our website.

You can also buy fentanyl test strips from the Needle Exchange, The Hemp Store, or the Dancesafe store online. 

Fentanyl test strips come with simple instructions about how to use them. This process involves diluting your drug sample in some water and holding part of the strip in for a few minutes. The test will react with fentanyl if it is in your sample.

Check out our article on how to use Dancesafe fentanyl test strips.

When should I use a fentanyl test strip?

It’s never a bad idea to use a fentanyl test strip and they can be used on almost every type of drug. However, there are some situations where we definitely recommend you test, even if you don’t think you have fentanyl.

  • If you are using heroin or other opioid drugs. These are more likely to be laced with fentanyl as they work in similar ways in the body.
  • If you are planning on injecting any drug. Injecting delivers the drug faster to your blood stream- if there is fentanyl in it, this method of using will increase your risk of overdosing.
  • If you think you have bought or been sold a synthetic opioid, fentanyl or ‘down’. It is always good to be sure whether you have fentanyl or not, so you can make an informed choice.

What can’t a fentanyl test strip tell me?

Like reagent tests, fentanyl tests strips won’t be able to tell you the purity or dose of fentanyl in your sample. They also can’t tell you which fentanyl analogue you have. Remember some analogues of fentanyl are much stronger and some are weaker than fentanyl itself.

Fentanyl tests can pick up on many fentanyl analogues - but not all of them. They also cannot pick up on other novel synthetic opioids that aren’t related to fentanyl - even though these drugs can be just as potent. They can pick up on carfentanil, but as it is dangerous in very small amounts, the strips sometimes miss it. Because of this, it is important to remember that a negative fentanyl test strip does not always been there is no fentanyl in your sample.

Despite the limitations, fentanyl test strips are one of the most effective tools we have for detecting fentanyl in drug samples.

How do I use fentanyl test strips?

Here's a quick guide on how to use fentanyl test strips:


Related stories

Stay up to date with The Level

Sign up to our newsletter

Recent stories

SMART Recovery: Support groups without the need for abstinence or a higher power

We explore what it is and how it has positively affected people's lives.

Kamini: What you need to know

EDs and doctors have seen more people seeking help for opioid overdose, withdrawal, and addiction after using kamini. Here's what you need to know about the opioid-containing remedy.

Pseudoephedrine: what you need to know

Pseudoephedrine is back on the shelves. Here's what you need to know about this cold & flu medication.