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Presence of fentanyl grows in Cape Cod's illicit drug supply

Courtesy AIDS Support Group of Cape Cod

There’s more fentanyl being detected in the region’s illicit drug supply of stimulants.

That's according to the AIDS Support Group of Cape Cod.

CEO Dan Gates said people who occasionally use stimulants like cocaine or crystal meth may not be aware opioids are present in the drug stream and they’re at risk for potential overdoses.

The AIDS Support Group has been holding Narcan trainings at local restaurants and bars as part of their response.

But Gates said those aren’t the only places that can benefit from the sessions.

“In regions where there’s such a high risk, as we have right now, we would argue that every business should be receiving one of these trainings," he said.

Narcan is a life-saving treatment that can reverse opioid overdoses.

With opioid-related overdoses deaths on the rise, the White House recently released a new plan to increase testing for xylazine - a dangerous animal tranquilizer that’s present in the country’s illicit drug supply.

The AIDS Support Group group has already been expanding services to address the problem.

Xylazine isn't safe for human use. It can lead to severe skin wounds and is often present in fentanyl.

In addition to providing wound care, the AIDS Support Group of Cape Cod now offers test strips for xylazine.

Assistant Director of Harm Reduction Services Eliza Morrison said the strips sometimes give a false negative but are still useful.

“The accuracy is not 100%. But our goal is always harm reduction and education, so just having them enables us to do a lot of teaching with folks," she said.

Morrison also said that fentanyl has replaced heroin as the main illicit opioid being used in the region.

She said people struggling with opioid use disorder began seeking out fentanyl because it provides a stronger high.

“There’s not really heroin here anymore. And if there is, people aren’t interested because what they’re accustomed now to is this very strong fentanyl.”

Fentanyl is typically cut with other substances because of how potent it is.

Contact the AIDS Support Group of Cape Cod to learn more about their free Narcan trainings.

Brian Engles is an author, a Cape Cod local, and a producer for Morning Edition.