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Clinic doctor says point-of-care fentanyl testing improvement needed

 A fentanyl test strip sits on top of an open green rapid response test packet.  .
Mary Fecteau
Ideastream Public Media
A fentanyl test strip sits on top of an open green rapid response test packet

The opioid overdose epidemic has had a devastating impact on Ohio.

Last year, nearly 5,000 drug overdose deaths were recorded by the Ohio Department of Health. The synthetic opioid fentanyl figures prominently in those deaths.

Fentanyl is fifty times stronger than heroin and it's increasingly showing up in other street drugs helping to drive accidental overdoses.

In a new perspective piece in the New England Journal of Medicine, a Cleveland Clinic doctor and his co-author call for easier fentanyl testing—especially in emergency care situations.

Dr. Brian Barnett is an addiction specialist and a psychiatrist with the Cleveland Clinic's Behavioral Health as well as an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry.

 He and his co-author wrote in the New England Journal of Medicine:
“Although fentanyl is now the dominant driver of the opioid epidemic, our health care system has struggled to adapt toxicology screening practices to this reality. Routine fentanyl immunoassay screening has not been fully adopted in clinical practice, in part because of the costs of implementation and maintenance of laboratory instrumentation, as well as interpretation challenges related to false positive results from “designer fentanyls” and cutting agents. There is also no reliable Food and Drug Administration (FDA)–approved self-testing kit that people who use drugs can deploy for harm-reduction purposes.”

-Brian Barnett, MD, Psychiatrist, Cleveland Clinic Behavioral Health