Stakeholder perspectives on implementing fentanyl drug checking: Results from a multi-site study

Drug Alcohol Depend. 2019 Jan 1;194:527-532. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2018.10.017. Epub 2018 Nov 13.


Background: The opioid epidemic is one of the greatest public health crises of our times, driven increasingly by synthetic opioids such as fentanyl in the heroin supply. The implementation of drug checking in community settings has the potential to reduce the burden of fatal overdose, provide harm reduction education around safer drug consumption, and increase health access among people who use drugs (PWUD). To inform program development, we explored stakeholder opinions on drug checking technologies and implementation considerations.

Methods: This study, from the larger FORECAST study, utilized semi-structured in-depth interviews (n = 32) with a range of stakeholders in Baltimore, Boston, and Providence, many of whom were service providers. Stakeholders represented various roles and levels in organization types including harm reduction, public health, peer groups, and advocates. Interviews were audio recorded and transcribed. Data were coded using a priori codes; the coded text was analyzed for key themes.

Results: Stakeholders responded positively to drug checking technology, though they shared apprehensions regarding service implementation. Primary topics requiring consideration included: utility in fentanyl endemic areas, trust and rapport between providers and PWUD, legality and policy concerns. Additional considerations included: technology accuracy, cost, ease of distribution, and service delivery setting.

Conclusions: Stakeholders overwhelmingly supported the concept of drug checking with the goals of providing needed risk reduction information and resources to PWUD and serving as a point for greater engagement in services. Programs need to be tailored to local circumstances. Law enforcement buy-in and policy change will be critical aspects of providing drug checking services.

Keywords: Drug checking; Fentanyl; Implementation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Baltimore
  • Boston
  • Drug Overdose / prevention & control*
  • Fentanyl*
  • Harm Reduction*
  • Heroin
  • Humans
  • Illicit Drugs*
  • Public Health*


  • Illicit Drugs
  • Heroin
  • Fentanyl