LEGALIZED IN ARKANSAS: Fentanyl test strips are no longer considered "drug paraphernalia" in Arkansas. Mary Hennigan

Fentanyl test strips, which were illegal in Arkansas until recently, are now available as a low-cost method to help prevent drug overdoses. A small amount of fentanyl — two milligrams — can be fatal, and the strips detect the presence of it in other drugs.

The strips were previously categorized as drug paraphernalia in Arkansas, but they were legalized through the Act 584 of 2023, the Fentanyl Enforcement and Accountability Act. It was sponsored by Rep. Jimmy Gazaway (R-Paragould) and became law on Jan. 1.

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“Decriminalizing the test strips was a common-sense measure that will hopefully reduce the number of overdoses,” Gazaway said Tuesday.

While the bill also establishes steep criminal penalties for people who distribute fentanyl, Gazaway said most importantly, the act is about saving lives.

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Rep. Nicole Clowney (D-Fayetteville) has been proudly spreading the word about the strip’s availability on her social media accounts.

“The danger of fentanyl is that it is both highly potent and very sneaky,” Clowney said Tuesday. “People overdose on fentanyl without ever knowing that they ingested fentanyl.”

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In 2021, 618 Arkansans lost their lives to opioid overdoses. More than half of the deaths were caused by illicit fentanyl. Organizations that are fighting against opioid deaths are slated to receive a portion of a $250 million settlement over the next dozen years.

“It is running rampant,” Clowney said. “I don’t know anyone in Arkansas who doesn’t have a personal story about someone who has lost their life to this drug.”

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While it’s not yet known which brick-and-mortar establishments will offer testing strips, they’re available online. You can get order them from Amazon.

To use the fentanyl test strips, first dissolve the drug in a small amount of water, then saturate the end of the strip for about 15 seconds. Lay the strip flat for up to five minutes. One line means the drug is laced with fentanyl. Two lines means fentanyl is not present.

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We would rather see someone be able to test and know what type of substance they’re getting, instead of punishing them with some drug paraphernalia charge,” Gazaway said.

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