Should Fentanyl Test Strips Be Easy to Access in Montana?
Another day brings yet another report of fentanyl being apprehended in Montana. This time it was a Great Falls man, who was busted on Wednesday (4/6) with 156 fentanyl pills and 2 grams of "pure fentanyl powder", reported Montana Right Now. The drug dealer and his girlfriend would allegedly purchase the drugs in Spokane, according to authorities and they were likely distributing the pills in Montana.
On March 31st, eight people were arrested at the Blackfeet Tribal Council chairman's home. Some of those arrests are allegedly connected to fentanyl dealing. Just a week previous, the Blackfeet Nation declared a state of emergency after experiencing 17 overdoses and 4 deaths in the span of a week. (source Missoulian). Last month, a Billings man admitted to drug trafficking charges, including meth, heroin, and 9,000 fentanyl pills.
Montana Highway Patrol notes a huge increase in seized fentanyl.
According to this Montana Department of Justice release, the Montana Highway Patrol has seen a massive increase in the number of fentanyl pills they've apprehended this spring. As of March 15, 2022, they've already surpassed the entire total number of pills collected from the previous year. So far, troopers have seized 12,079 fentanyl pills – more than three times the total for all of 2021. Frightening.
OPINION: Prohibition (and walls) don't work.
Making something illegal doesn't make it stop. It didn't work for booze in the 1920s, and the half-truth, fearmongering DARE Program days of Nancy Reagan were a joke. The US has an insatiable appetite for drugs that suppliers are more than happy to oblige. If you honestly believe an easily circumvented border wall will stop the flow of drugs into Montana... I'm tempted to make the low-hanging jab of "you've got to be smoking crack."
How about low-cost, readily available fentanyl testing strips?
Hear me out. Many of our current Montana politicians make a lot of noise about our southern border, but if they really, honestly cared about saving Montana lives, perhaps it's time to consider low-cost, readily available fentanyl drug testing strips as part of the arsenal. I know... the simplistic answer is "don't do drugs and you won't have to worry about it." Obviously, I can't argue that. Another fact is that people do drugs. The reasons are many, and far beyond the scope of this article, but most of them don't plan on dying.
No? Consider these circumstances.
- Your daughter gets pressured to take a "party" pill in college.
- One of the guys decides to share a little coke at a bachelor party.
- Your "good kid" chooses to take something at a high school kegger.
- You and your spouse think it'd be fun to take some Ecstacy at a music festival.
- Your all-American, God-fearing, youth-group-every-week teen moves out and decides to experiment with drugs, despite everything you've taught them.
- Your doctor cut back your much-needed pain medication (because of rampant oxycontin abuse nationwide) and you're now desperate for pain relief options.
All of these situations happen, all of the time in Montana.
I generally believe that if what I do doesn't hurt you or anyone else, so be it. But fentanyl has no place in the recreational drug category. The only time I've felt its effects was when it was carefully administered in the emergency room following a bad car accident.
Fentanyl test strips are cheap (as little as $1) and are easy to use and transport.
If we can't stop people from taking drugs (good luck!), the least we could do is help prevent accidental overdoses and deaths from the crazy amount of fentanyl that is racing through our state. Montana officials should consider making fentanyl test kits available for free, or at low cost, at locations everywhere. Put them in gas stations, health centers, the bar, wherever. Use some of that recreational cannabis tax money to pay for them. Accessible test kits could save the life of your son/daughter/spouse/friend who wasn't looking for a fentanyl overdose when they took something else that was laced with the dangerous drug.