Two law enforcement officers exhibited signs of an overdose after accidental contact with fentanyl earlier this year;(1) meanwhile, fentanyl-related deaths are skyrocketing—in a single year, synthetic opioid overdose fatalities have more than doubled,(2) and fentanyl now accounts for more than half of opioid overdose deaths in many states.(3) Novus Detox Center, a preeminent Florida-based drug treatment provider, aims to increase awareness of the risks of accidental fentanyl exposure, advising police and other first responders to take the necessary precautions.
In May 2017, sheriff’s deputy and paramedic Kevin Phillips experienced overdose symptoms after searching a Maryland home for drugs; in Ohio, patrolman Chris Green passed out after brushing white powder from his uniform following a drug-related traffic stop. Both officers suffered accidental exposure to fentanyl and had to be revived with the overdose-reversing drug Narcan.(1) The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) estimates that fentanyl is 30 to 50 times more potent than heroin and 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. According to the DEA, just 2 to 3 milligrams of fentanyl—an amount equivalent to five to seven grains of table salt—is capable of causing respiratory depression and arrest, and potentially even death, if it is ingested, inhaled, or absorbed through the skin or eyes.(4)
The growing prevalence of fentanyl has translated to rising deaths. Provisional counts by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that fatalities linked to synthetic opioids—including fentanyl—rose from 9,945 to 20,145 between January 2016 and January 2017.(2) Another new CDC report revealed that fentanyl was detected in at least half of all opioid overdose deaths in seven of the 10 states examined; in total, fentanyl was linked to 56.3% of all opioid-related fatalities recorded in the six-month, 10-state study.(3)
“Fentanyl poses an extreme hazard to the public, both to those who ingest the drug and others who inadvertently come into contact with it,” warned Kent Runyon, Vice President of Community Relations for Novus Detox Center. “Counterfeit prescription opioid pills often contain fentanyl, and it is increasingly being mixed with heroin and other street drugs to increase potency and decrease cost. Police, firefighters and emergency medical technicians face severe health risks if they unknowingly come into contact with fentanyl, which can occur when investigating drug cases or treating overdose victims.”
The recent spate of accidental overdoses led the DEA to publish a fentanyl briefing guide for first responders.(4) Runyon advises anyone employed in law enforcement, emergency response or healthcare to review the information and recommendations outlined in the document. Responders should take precautions if they encounter overdose victims exhibiting cyanosis or respiratory arrest, evidence of loose powders or nasal spray bottles, or parcels postmarked from China, particularly when multiple overdoses are occurring within a small geographic area over a period of two to three days. The guide highlights the appropriate safety protocols for dealing with fentanyl, such as contacting officials with hazardous materials training and donning appropriate personal protective equipment.
“Law enforcement officers and emergency-response personnel must be proactive in protecting themselves against the growing threat posed by fentanyl,” said Runyon. “Our best chance of defeating this scourge is to identify individuals with opioid use disorders and help them obtain appropriate treatment. As long as there is a demand for opioids within a community, fentanyl will continue to be used by dealers seeking to maximize profits. If we focus on getting current users into opioid detox and treatment programs, drug dealers will lose their customer base—which will hopefully put an end to the current fentanyl crisis.”
Novus provides medically supervised opioid treatment programs that feature individualized care and an emphasis on sustainable sobriety. In addition to its 31-bed inpatient treatment center near Tampa Bay, Novus will soon be opening a new 41-bed detox facility in West Palm Beach. For more information on Novus Detox Center and its opioid treatment programs, visit https://novusdetox.com.
See the latest posts on our homepage