UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Expanding harm reduction to include fentanyl urine testing: results from a pilot in rural British Columbia Mema, Silvina C; Sage, Chloe; Popoff, Serge; Bridgeman, Jessica; Taylor, Deanne; Corneil, Trevor


Background: Harm reduction has been at the forefront of the response to the opioid overdose public health emergency in British Columbia (BC). The unprecedented number of opioid overdose deaths in the province calls for an expansion of harm reduction services. The purpose of this study was to determine the acceptability of a fentanyl urine drug test among people who use drugs (PWUD) and explore whether testing introduced any changes in participants’ attitudes and behaviors towards their drug use. Methods: A pilot of fentanyl urine testing was implemented in partnership with an outreach harm reduction program in rural BC. Participants were PWUD who had consumed within the last 3 days prior to the test. Participants filled out a semi-structured questionnaire at the time of the test and were invited for a follow-up interview 2 to 4 weeks after the test. Urine samples were tested with BNTX Rapid Response™ fentanyl urine strip test at a detection level of 20 ng/ml norfentanyl. Results: Of the 24 participants who completed the urine test and first interview, 4 had a positive fentanyl urine test. Fifteen clients completed the second questionnaire, 10 of whom reported introducing a behavior change after testing and the remaining 5 indicated being already engaged in harm reduction practices. All four clients who tested positive completed the second questionnaire; all but one indicated adopting behaviors towards overdose prevention. Discussion: Fentanyl urine testing appealed to illicit opioid users and may have contributed to adopting behaviors towards safer drug use. A relationship of trust between tester and client seemed important for clients who expressed concerns with privacy of the urine test results. Post-consumption urine testing could complement the use of pre-consumption drug checking in the context of harm reduction services.

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Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)