The street version of fentanyl blamed for the deaths of thousands is also threatening police officers, forcing changes in long-standing basics of drug investigations, from confiscations to testing and undercover operations, law enforcement officials tell the Associated Press. Overdose deaths have surged as drugs such as heroin, cocaine, and counterfeit prescription pills are now commonly laced with fentanyl to increase potency. Drug investigators say it is increasingly sold by itself, too. A speck the size of a few grains of salt can potentially kill a 250-pound man, said Tommy Farmer of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.
Fentanyl can be absorbed through the skin or inhaled if it becomes airborne. Because such a small amount can be deadly, police agencies are changing the way they go about keeping officers safe.
James Shroba of the Drug Enforcement Administration in St. Louis said agents are even trained in how to give themselves the anti-overdose Narcan in case of accidental exposure to fentanyl because “if they actually touch it or inhale it, they could die.” Farmer said, “We definitely see it as the next big danger. With fentanyl, if the officer is simply patting somebody down, or if he’s getting a little bit out to try to do a field test and it accidentally comes in contact with his skin or the wind blows it in his face, he could have a serious problem.”