HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – The number of overdose deaths is on the rise in Madison County, and the suspected cause is fentanyl. The Partnership for a Drug-Free Community in Huntsville is working to stop overdoses by handing out fentanyl test strips.

Fentanyl test strips can play part in stopping accidental overdoses.

“Basically the test strips work like a COVID strip,” Carl Wilkerson, an advanced alcohol and drug counselor. “The test is used to find out if fentanyl is present in the substance the person is using.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fentanyl is the driving force of an increase in overdose deaths across the country, and the Madison County coroner said six deaths happened in less than 48 hours this week.

Fentanyl is 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine. Because of its potency and euphoric feeling it produces, fentanyl is commonly mixed with other drugs.

“The big concern is not necessarily for those people who are using fentanyl,” Wilkerson said. “That’s a concern of itself.”

When someone uses fentanyl-laced substances, like heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, and MDMA, they are more likely to overdose.

“Where the concern for the test strips comes in is that for those people who are not aware they’re using fentanyl as a result of using other substances,” Wilkerson said.

The Partnership for a Drug-Free Community said the strips are not meant to promote drug use, but instead, they allow people to know if what they are using is tainted with the often deadly drug.

“This strip allows them to test the substance that they are using to see if fentanyl is present,” Wilkerson said. “It helps to prevent cross-addiction and all sorts of other things.”

Wilkerson said it is important to immediately seek medical help if you suspect a fentanyl overdose.

“Usually what’s associated with an overdose is respiratory failure, heart failure, extreme euphoria, and usually those things happen very rapidly once a person uses,” Wilkerson said.

The Partnership for a Drug-Free Community has a limited number of test strips to hand out. If you are interested in picking some up, call the office at 256-539-7339.

If you are struggling with drug use, the Partnership also offers treatment options, including a free assessment and peer-support services. Click here for more information.