Mayfest, HPaW to provide free fentanyl test strips ahead of Dillo Day


Illustration by Samantha Powers

Fentanyl test strips are available for students during Dillo Day wristband pickup hours at Seabury Hall, which runs through Friday.

Saul Pink, Newsletter Editor

In an effort to mitigate risks regarding substance use, students will have access to free fentanyl test strips before Dillo Day. Some Mayfest Productions members will also carry naloxone, a medication which treats narcotic overdoses, during the event. 

Members of Mayfest’s operations committee partnered with Northwestern’s Health Promotion and Wellness department to implement both initiatives. Students can get fentanyl testing strips at Seabury Hall during Dillo wristband pickup hours, which will take place through Friday. 

Strips are also available at residential area desks and at Northwestern Medicine Student Health Service in Searle Hall. 

“We’re assuming that we’re not going to encourage anyone to do drugs, but we’re assuming that there’s nothing we can do to stop people from doing drugs,” said Weinberg senior AJ Rosenthal, the co-director of operations for Mayfest. “So with that reality, we wanted to make sure that this event was as safe as it could be.”

Fentanyl test strips detect the presence of fentanyl — a powerful synthetic opioid with an increasing presence in the illegal drug market — in substances. Users mix a small amount of a substance with water and dip the strip into them to see if the substance contains fentanyl, according to Lesli Vipond, the assistant director of substance misuse prevention for HPaW. 

Fentanyl is thought to be the cause of 67,325 preventable deaths in 2021 across the U.S., according to the National Safety Council.

Vipond worked with Rosenthal, Medill senior Hannah Cheves and other members of Mayfest’s operations team to work with the administration to distribute test strips free of charge. 

“What we’re seeing happening more and more is that substances are laced with fentanyl, and people don’t know it,” Vipond said. “So a student, for example, could be using (ecstasy), but it is laced with fentanyl, or cocaine or something else.”

The rate of fentanyl overdoses increased by about 279% between 2016 and 2021, according to a National Center for Health Statistics report released earlier this month.

Cheves and Rosenthal, who will both carry naloxone throughout Dillo Day, received training from Vipond on administering the drug. Commonly known by the brand name Narcan, naloxone can be administered using a nasal spray or injection. 

Members of Mayfest’s Student Intervention Service will be located in pairs on the Lakefill. If they see someone experiencing an overdose, one person will call for emergency medical help and the other will check on the individual, Cheves said.

Cheves said naloxone is particularly beneficial because it doesn’t harm people who are experiencing something that isn’t an opioid overdose. The Food and Drug Administration approved naloxone nasal spray as an over-the-counter drug in March.

“An opioid overdose is very hard to differentiate from alcohol poisoning or another kind of overdose,” Cheves said. “If you suspect that it could be an opioid overdose, you should administer Narcan.”

Vipond said NU’s Amnesty through Responsible Action policy will apply in situations where naloxone is administered, meaning students will not be disciplined for drug use if they call for medical assistance.

She said she hopes HPaW will continue to provide fentanyl test strips to students year-round.

“We don’t want it to stop at Dillo,” Vipond said. “That’s what we’re focusing on, because we know it’s a time a lot of students are experimenting, but the plan is for this to continue to be available if the student interest is there.”

Correction: A previous version of this story misspelled Lesli Vipond’s name. The Daily regrets the error.

Email: [email protected] 

Twitter: @saullpink

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