Drug checking in the fentanyl era: Utilization and interest among people who inject drugs in San Diego, California




Bailey, Katie
Abramovitz, Daniela
Artamonova, Irina
Davidson, Peter
Stamos-Buesig, Tara
Vera, Carlos F.
Patterson, Thomas L.
Arredondo, Jaime
Kattan, Jessica
Bergmann, Luke

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International Journal of Drug Policy


Background In North America, overdose rates have steeply risen over the past five years, largely due to the ubiquity of illicitly manufactured fentanyls in the drug supply. Drug checking services (DCS) represent a promising harm reduction strategy and characterizing experiences of use and interest among people who inject drugs (PWID) is a priority. Methods Between February-October 2022, PWID participating in a cohort study in San Diego, CA and Tijuana, Mexico completed structured surveys including questions about DCS, socio-demographics and substance use behaviors. We used Poisson regression to assess factors associated with lifetime DCS use and characterized experiences with DCS and interest in free access to DCS. Results Of 426 PWID, 72% were male, 59% Latinx, 79% were experiencing homelessness and 56% ever experienced a nonfatal overdose. One third had heard of DCS, of whom 57% had ever used them. Among the latter, most (98%) reported using fentanyl test strips (FTS) the last time they used DCS; 66% did so less than once per month. In the last six months, respondents used FTS to check methamphetamine (48%), heroin (30%) or fentanyl (29%). Relative to White/non-Latinx PWID, those who were non-White/Latinx were significantly less likely to have used DCS [adjusted risk ratio (aRR): 0.22; 95% CI: 0.10, 0.47), as were PWID experiencing homelessness (aRR:0.45; 95% CI: 0.28, 0.72). However, a significant interaction indicated that non-White/Latinx syringe service program (SSP) clients were more likely to have used DCS than non-SSP clients (aRR: 2.79; CI: 1.09, 7.2). Among all PWID, 44% expressed interest in free access to FTS, while 84% (of 196 PWID) expressed interest in advanced spectrometry DCS to identify and quantify multiple substances. Conclusions Our findings highlight low rates of DCS awareness and utilization, inequities by race/ethnicity and housing situation, high interest in advanced spectrometry DCS versus FTS, and the potential role of SSPs in improving access to DCS, especially among racial/ethnic minorities.



Harm reduction, Drug checking services, Fentanyl test strips, Spectrometry, Serive access


Bailey, K., Abramovitz, D., Artamonova, I., Davidson, P., Stamos-Buesig, T., Vera, C. F., ... Borquez, A. (2023). Drug checking in the fentanyl era: Utilization and interest among people who inject drugs in San Diego, California. International Journal of Drug Policy, 118, 104086. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.drugpo.2023.104086