Fentanyl test strips are easily accessible over the counter in many states, but Missouri is not one of them.

Missouri’s statute categorizes anything used to test or analyze drugs as drug paraphernalia, which makes illegal the possession of fentanyl tests, which can be used at home to test drugs and medication for fentanyl contamination.

Senate Bill 480, sponsored by Sen. Holly Thompson Rehder, R-Scott City, and heard Monday before the Senate Judiciary Committee, would add an exception to the statute to legalize the test strips.

Overdose deaths from synthetic opioids, of which fentanyl is the most deadly, have risen dramatically in recent years. The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services reported that over 2,000 drug-related deaths occurred in Missouri in 2021, and of them, about 70% involved a synthetic opioid.

According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, to reduce costs, drug manufacturers mix fentanyl with other drugs including heroin, methamphetamine, and cocaine, increasing the likelihood of overdose.

Access to test strips allows people to safely check any drugs or pills they may have, including prescription drugs acquired illegally such as Adderall and Xanax, to ensure they do not contain fentanyl.

“You want to be able to keep someone alive long enough to get them past their addiction,” Thompson Rehder said while introducing the bill. “And that takes time. We want to be sure that we’re keeping people alive long enough to get them there.”

Jessica Petrie, a lobbyist representing the Missouri chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, testified in favor of the bill, stating that access to test strips allows people to behave more safely and take precautions to prevent overdose.

“Studies have shown that individuals who have access to fentanyl test strips actually do modify their behavior,” Petrie said. “By potentially discarding a batch or having (anti-overdose medication) Naloxone on hand, or whatever the case may be.”

Another witness in favor of the bill, Jon Hensley, spoke about his experience losing a friend to pain pills contaminated with fentanyl.

“In the midst of the grief surrounding his death,” Hensley said, “some of us also came to realize that a handful of Missouri statutes make obtaining these test strip kits an absurd ordeal in Missouri, though you can buy them over the counter in 30 or so states around the country.”

There was no public testimony against the bill.

This story originally appeared in the Columbia Missourian. It can be republished in print or online. 

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