New York-based group giving heroin users fentanyl test strips

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The DEA says this volume of fentanyl crystals can be deadly. (DEA)

A nonprofit health organization in central New York is handing out test strips at needle exchange sites so heroin users can test their drugs for fentanyl to avoid overdoses.

ACR Health told it has distributed fentanyl test strips to about 150 clients at needle exchanges in Syracuse, Utica and Watertown since January.

Fentanyl is a major cause of overdoses because it is far more powerful than heroin. ACR's program coordinator said most drug users reduce their dose if fentanyl is detected.

The organization received a $2,000 grant from Excellus BlueCross BlueShield to buy the strips, which cost about $1 each. Some state health departments pay for the test strips.

A spokesman for the New York State Health Department said the agency is developing guidance on fentanyl test strip use.