The Opioid Epidemic Grows
By Chief Dan Flynn
Sadly, the opioid drug epidemic is spreading across America and it is increasing at an alarming rate. Originally fueled by the emergence of pill mills which sharplyincreased the illegal supply of opiate pain medications, abuse of them quickly morphed into widespread heroin use and addiction as overdose deaths started toaccelerate. As if the heroin epidemic was not dangerous and tragic enough, next came the introduction, into the illegal drug market, of the extremely powerful opioid; Fentanyl.Fentanyl is in the opioid family, but it is 50-100 times stronger than Morphine and 30-50 times more potent than heroin. Used legally, under a doctor’s supervision,pharmaceutical-grade Fentanyl is helpful to reduce intense severe pain. On the other hand, when it is used in an illegal way, either by being synthetically manufactured and mixed with heroin, or taken by itself, it is frequently lethal. The problem is exacerbated and often deadly when black-market synthetic Fentanyl is secretly mixed with other drugs or just given to unsuspecting drug users.
The growth of the opioid epidemic has become so severe with the introduction of illegal Fentanyl, law enforcement is now seeing even more powerful iterations of Fentanyl known as Carfentanil. In order to get a sense of how powerful and dangerous the Fentanyl-related drugs are; consider that accidentally inhaling anamount as small as single grain of salt, or merely touching it with bare hands can, in some cases, cause someone to suffer an immediate overdose.
Insofar as the community of first responders (police, fire and emergency medical personnel) has seen the opioid epidemic growing, they have been working diligently to find better ways to save overdose victims. For that purpose, many first responders now carry the approved antidote; Narcan. Nevertheless, first responders, continue to see the growing potency of this entire class of drugs and realize the increasing danger of accidental ingestion through physical contact or inhalation. In addition, we are now learning Narcan, in the doses that are typically used to counter heroin overdoses may not be strong enough to counter the full effects of Fentanyl or Carfentanil. Thus, we now must research appropriate dosages of Narcan in order to stay current with the latest developments in the Opioid epidemic.
While first responders work to protect and save opioid users who overdose as well as protecting themselves from accidental contact with the growing list of synthetic opium substances, it is now becoming apparent that average citizens who have no involvement with illicit drug use or the drug culture may still be at risk of accidental contact with contaminated surfaces. Citizens who provide services such as cleaning hotel rooms or other premises where illicit drugs may have been possessed, used or distributed may become accidentally exposed through casual contact. In addition, workers who move, clean or transport automobiles or even clean clothing or linens that may have been exposed are also at serious risk.
There have not been any cases of accidental ingestion of opiates in Marietta, however there have been several cases over the past two years in which Marietta Police officers have made arrests and seized various form of synthetic opiates. These dangerous drugs are in the Metro-Atlanta area, and all other areas of the Country, and they are still growing in potency and availability.
As the opioid epidemic continues to grow, local, state and federal law enforcement personnel need to monitor the crisis and adjust as necessary to safeguard against accidental exposure. In addition, when handling any manner of an overdose case it is vital for law enforcement to attempt to trace the source(s) of the drug so we can stem the flow of these killer drugs.