Perspectives on Fentanyl Test Strip Use among People Who Inject Drugs in Rural Appalachia

Sean T. Allen, Allison O’Rourke, Rebecca Hamilton White, Susan G. Sherman, Suzanne M. Grieb

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Background: Fentanyl-associated overdose fatalities have increased dramatically throughout the United States. Fentanyl test strips (FTS) may be used by people who inject drugs (PWID) to lower overdose risks; however, virtually no research has been conducted to understand the perspectives of rural PWID in Appalachia on FTS utilization. Objectives: We aim to explore FTS awareness and potential use among PWID in two rural counties in West Virginia (WV). Methods: Semi-structured interviews with PWID (n = 48) in two rural counties in WV were conducted to explore FTS awareness, potential use, and possible behavioral changes following FTS utilization. Participants were recruited in areas where PWID congregate in each county. With participants’ permission, interviews were audio recorded and transcribed verbatim. Transcripts were analyzed using an iterative, constant comparative approach. Results: Very few participants had heard of FTS prior to the interview. Upon learning about FTS, PWID who reported frequently injecting heroin expressed high willingness to use FTS. Participants explained that learning their drugs contained fentanyl may make them more likely to engage in overdose risk reduction behaviors, such as: using less, doing tester shots, and not using the drugs entirely. Conclusion: Among our sample of rural PWID in Appalachia, most were unaware of FTS but expressed high willingness to utilize the technology. Participants described how receiving a positive FTS result may lead them to engage in overdose risk reduction behaviors. Augmenting existing overdose prevention initiatives in rural Appalachia such that rural PWID have access to FTS may result in reductions in overdose fatalities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1594-1600
Number of pages7
JournalSubstance Use and Misuse
Issue number10
StatePublished - Jul 1 2020


  • Injection drug use
  • fentanyl test strips
  • harm reduction
  • overdose
  • rural health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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