Knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors related to the fentanyl-adulterated drug supply among people who use drugs in Oregon

Kate LaForge, Erin Stack, Sarah Shin, Justine Pope, Jessica E. Larsen, Gillian Leichtling, Judith M. Leahy, Andrew Seaman, Dan Hoover, Mikaela Byers, Caiti Barrie, Laura Chisholm, P. Todd Korthuis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Introduction: Nonpharmaceutical fentanyl has reconfigured the U.S. illicit drug market, contributing to a drastic increase in overdose drug deaths. While illicit fentanyl has subsumed the drug supply in the Northeast and Midwest, it has more recently reached the West. For this study, we explored knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors among people who use drugs in Oregon in the context of the emergence of fentanyl in the drug supply. Methods: We conducted in-depth interviews by phone with 34 people who use drugs in Oregon from May to June 2021. We used thematic analysis to analyze transcripts and construct themes. Results: People who use drugs knew about fentanyl, expressed doubt that fentanyl could be found in methamphetamine; believed those who were younger or less experienced were at higher risk for harm; and received information about fentanyl from drug dealers, syringe service programs, or peers (other people who use drugs). Preference for fentanyl's presence in drugs like heroin or methamphetamine was mixed. Some felt that their preference was irrelevant since fentanyl was unavoidable. Participants reported engaging in harm reduction practices, including communicating about fentanyl with dealers and peers, testing for fentanyl, using smaller quantities of drugs, switching from injecting to smoking, and using naloxone. Conclusion: People who use drugs are responding to the rise of fentanyl on the West Coast and are concerned about the increasing uncertainty and hazards of the drug supply. They are willing and motivated to adopt harm reduction behaviors. Harm reduction promotion from syringe service programs and public health agencies is essential to reduce injury and death from nonpharmaceutical fentanyl.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number108849
JournalJournal of Substance Abuse Treatment
StatePublished - Oct 2022


  • Fentanyl
  • Harm reduction
  • Methamphetamine
  • Opioids
  • Overdose
  • Qualitative research
  • Substance use

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Phychiatric Mental Health
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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