DEA warns law enforcement about handling dangerous drug
WASHINGTON - The Federal Drug Enforcement Agency has released a nationwide warning concerning the dangers of improperly handling fentanyl and its potentially deadly consequences.
The DEA has released video all law enforcement agencies, urging them to take the powerful narcotic they encounter directly to a lab.
According to the DEA, fentanyl is a dangerous, powerful Schedule II narcotic that has been responsible for an epidemic of overdose deaths in the country. Over the past two years, the distribution of clandestinely manufactured fentanyl has been linked to an “unprecedented outbreaks of thousands of overdoses and deaths.”
DEA agents say they’ve issued the special alert regarding fentanyl because of the alarming rate at which these deaths are multiplying in concert with the nation’s swelling opiate epidemic.
“Fentanyl can kill you,” Riley said. “Fentanyl is being sold as heroin in virtually every corner of our country. It’s produced clandestinely in Mexico, and (also) comes directly from China. It is 40 to 50 times stronger than street-level heroin. A very small amount ingested, or absorbed through your skin, can kill you.”
A notable local case of fentanyl taking lives happened in November of last year when two men from St. Charles Parish were found dead of an apparent drug overdose that was linked to accidental fentanyl use via toxicology test results. Investigators determined the men had received a “bad batch” of what they thought was heroin which was in fact laced with fentanyl. It is important to note that health officials estimate the drug is 80 to 100 times more potent than morphine and nearly 50 times stronger than heroin.
In a video accompanying the DEA release, two New Jersey detectives who were exposed to just a tiny amount of the drug describe their experience.
One detective said: “I thought that was it. I thought I was dying. It felt like my body was shutting down.”
The DEA warns officers to skip testing of suspected fentanyl on the scene due to the dangerous nature of the drug. They are even warned of the potential harm to police canines that could occur during the course of duties should fentanyl be involved. First responders and public health workers were also warned of the drug.
Law officers are urged to submit samples of the narcotic directly to the laboratory for analysis with proper precautions. The dosage of fentanyl is a microgram, or one millionth of a gram, so even simply opening a packet of the powdered drug could lead to an individual inadvertently overdosing if the powder becomes airborne and is ingested.
Historically, this is not the first time fentanyl has posed such a threat to public health and safety. Between 2005 and 2007, over 1,000 U.S. deaths were attributed to fentanyl - many of which occurred in Chicago, Detroit, and Philadelphia. However, the current situation is described as an unprecedented threat.