OPINION | Amidst fentanyl crisis, Tulane must offer free drug-testing kits

Casey Wade, Contributing Columnist

(Gabe Darley)

In 2020, 1,930 people died in Louisiana due to drug overdoses, marking a 48% increase from 2019. Louisiana ranked fifth in the U.S. for the greatest increase in drug overdoses in 2020. Fentanyl is spreading on a local level. 

Tulane University students are starting to feel fear over potentially laced drugs due to rumors and stories from peers about fentanyl. Our community is facing an epidemic, one fueled by fentanyl. It is essential that Tulane University provides free and accessible drug testing kits for students to minimize the damage of this epidemic.

Fentanyl is a synthetic opiate that is between 50 and 100 times more potent than morphine. It is a drug commonly prescribed for pain, but stronger forms of fentanyl are being produced in labs for recreational use.

Drug suppliers lace other drugs like cocaine and heroin with fentanyl because it is cheap and extremely potent. They combine minimal cocaine with large amounts of powder and lace the product with fentanyl, so buyers will feel the effect of the fentanyl and believe they are using pure cocaine. The low financial costs of fentanyl provide an incentive for dealers to lace their products with this extremely dangerous drug.

Tulane has gained a reputation as a top “party school,” and drug use, including use of cocaine, is not uncommon on campus.

Students may feel safe with the knowledge that many of their peers have experimented with cocaine or use it regularly. Because of the widespread use of this drug, one bad batch of cocaine on Tulane’s campus could lead to disaster.

Cocaine laced with fentanyl does not look, taste or smell any different than pure cocaine. The only reliable way to tell if a drug is laced with fentanyl is by using testing strips. The testing kits can detect fentanyl in drugs in pill, powder or injectable form.

Fentanyl testing strips are reasonably priced and take one to two minutes to provide accurate results. Above all else, fentanyl testing strips are lifesaving. Tulane should get ahead of the curve and provide free and accessible drug testing kits.

Tulane students will likely not stop using cocaine, and fentanyl is only spreading. By providing free drug test strips, the University would be solving an inevitable crisis.

The University is already accustomed to ensuring that they provide preventative measures for life-altering or life-threatening conditions. The case of providing free drug tests is slightly different, as cocaine and other drugs are illegal in Louisiana. It is likely that Tulane would not want to distribute drug tests at the risk of seeming like they endorse or allow student drug use. 

However, while pure cocaine and other drugs are not safe or healthy, it is much more dangerous for students to be unaware of what they may be taking. Because fentanyl poses serious risks, especially when taken in high doses, why would Tulane not want to provide harm reduction from drug related consequences?

Tulane students have already taken charge on this matter. In 2018, Students for Sensible Drug Policy provided students with free fentanyl testing strips for Voodoo Fest

SSDP provided these kits as a way to keep students safe, which is part of the University’s responsibility. If students can acquire the resources and funding for this project, Tulane certainly can provide free drug testing strips.

Because of Tulane’s pride in being innovative and cutting edge, the University should make itself a model for other universities by putting their students first. Students will not stop using drugs, so we must focus on harm reduction rather than pushing a drug free campus.