Press Release

Welch, Booker Introduce Legislation to Expand Access to Test Strips, Prevent Drug Overdoses and Deaths

Jul 25, 2023

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Peter Welch (D-VT) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) introduced the Expanding Nationwide Access to Test Strips Act, legislation that would expand access to and decriminalize drug test strips nationwide in order to prevent drug overdoses and deaths. The legislation is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Hirono, Blumenthal, Ossoff, Feinstein, Padilla, Whitehouse, and Markey. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 109,000 Americans died from a drug-related overdose in 2022, with 67% of those deaths caused by synthetic opioids like fentanyl. Additionally, 92% of the deaths were unintentional, and many victims were unaware that their drugs were laced with these dangerous substances.

One of the ways to reduce this staggeringly high number of deaths is to encourage the use of drug test strips that can detect the presence of fentanyl, xylazine, and other adulterants in various types of drugs and forms. The possession of drug test strips is already legal under federal law, and there has been a surge of support to decriminalize fentanyl test strips, with 16 states legalizing these strips as of January of this year. However, several states still criminalize test strips as drug paraphernalia, thereby limiting their access. Additionally, only a few states have been able to keep up with the emergence of new drugs and decriminalize test strips for these substances.

“Vermonters know that harm reduction tools play a critical role in preventing accidental drug overdose,” said Senator Welch. “However, in many parts of this country, test strips are classified as drug paraphernalia which limits access to this important tool. States across the country have decriminalized fentanyl test strips, but as xylazine and other deadly drugs emerge in popularity, the federal government has an important role to play in ensuring nationwide access to test strips. I’m proud to join Sen. Booker to lead this legislation to help prevent accidental overdose.”

“Drug test strips have been proven to be an effective and affordable way to prevent drug overdoses and, in some cases, help reduce drug usage overall. We should encourage their use to prevent accidental overdoses and deaths,” said Senator Booker. “As new drugs surface, it’s essential that we get ahead of the crisis and expand access to test strips. This legislation takes a critical next step in tackling the opioid crisis and will help save lives.”    

“Many families impacted by addiction come to us for information about how to encourage their loved one to use safety measures, such as test strips, to reduce their risk for overdose and death. Test strips are an important component of a comprehensive public health approach to address the overdose crisis and we support efforts to increase access,” said Lindsey Vuolo, Vice President, Health Law and Policy, Partnership to End Addiction.

“The National Harm Reduction Coalition is pleased to support the Ensuring Access to Test Strips Act, rooted in evidence-based harm reduction principles. The bill will standardize the patchwork of state laws regulating this inexpensive life-saving tool and has a real potential to reduce overdose deaths. In contrast to other pending federal bills based on failed “War on Drugs” reasoning, this bill does not rely on the criminal law which disproportionately polices, convicts and incarcerates people of color. We thank Senators Booker and Welch for leading on this issue and supporting harm reduction approaches that are demonstrated effective and cost-saving rather than scheduling and criminalization, which are racially unjust and lack any evidence base or cost control,” said Mary Sylla, JD, MPH, Director of Overdose Prevention Policy & Strategy.

Specifically, the Ensuring Nationwide Access to Test Strips Act would:

  • Allow an individual to obtain, possess, provide, or use test strips designed to detect the presence of fentanyl, xylazine, or other adulterants in drug samples in all states.
  • Ensure an individual is not subject to criminal prosecution solely for obtaining, possessing, providing, or using test strips.

Organization endorsing the Expanding Nationwide Access to Test Strips Act include: National Harm Reduction Coalition, Partnership to End Addiction, American Association of Psychiatric Pharmacists, American College of Emergency Physicians, Drug Policy Alliance, People’s Action, Illinois Harm Reduction & Recovery Coalition, and The bill is also endorsed by a coalition of over 50 medical and public health professionals across the country.

The full text of the bill can be found here.