The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) recently released a video aimed to raise awareness among their personnel about the potential dangers of the opioid called Fentanyl. This drug has been the one to blame lately for the increase in overdose rates in the U.S.

The DEA video featured two officers who had come in contact with the drug while doing an official proceeding storing the drug as evidence. During the procedure, they accidently inhaled powder fentanyl and were near death from the exposure to the small amount.

Fentanyl more dangerous than heroin
Fentanyl is getting more popular every day since the effects are similar to those produced by morphine. Credit: Huffington Post

DEA officers encouraged other colleagues to take extra precautions while handling the drug, as well to avoid field tests and instead to transport the Fentanyl immediately to a laboratory for further confirmation, according to the video.

The drug is known to be 50 times stronger than heroin and is currently being sold in the streets with a mix between the two powerful opioids. Officers even assured that most of the sellers and customers do not know that the combination exists.

“Fentanyl can kill you,” said Acting Deputy Administrator Jack Riley. “Fentanyl is being sold as heroin in virtually every corner of our country. It is produced clandestinely in Mexico, and also comes directly from China. A slight amount ingested, or absorbed through your skin, can kill you.”

Riley also commented that not only the humans can experience the dangers of the drug, which is usually prescribed to patients with cancer, but the canines friends who ingest the drug can be exposed to it and their owners need to be aware of the procedures that could be taken if an inhalation occurs.

“Fentanyl is so dangerous that we have had to instruct our agents that if they touch it or inhale it accidentally, they can die,” DEA Acting Administrator Chuck Rosenberg told a Senate committee this week. “If they are a canine officer and their dog sniffs it, perhaps because it is laced with heroin, that dog can die.”

According to Rosenberg, officers have received training on how to administer naloxone among each other. This drug can reverse the opioid overdose immediately and avoid losing lives for accidental inhalations or even create a quick response to civilians in danger, as reported by the Washington Times.

Increased seizures

During the last three years, there has been a significant resurgent in fentanyl-related seizures, and at least 15 other deadly compounds related to the drug have been found as well. In California, there was a 12-kilogram seizure and the latest one in Atlanta, resulted in a 40-kilogram seizure, the DEA reported.

The National Forensic Laboratory Information System, which is part of the DEA, reported more than 13,000 cases of fentanyl drug seizures in forensic laboratories during 2015. The year before there were less than 8,000 reports, a 65 percent increase over the years.

The anti-drug organization issued a nationwide alert on the drug last month and qualified as a threat to health and public safety. As it was previously mentioned, Fentanyl is commonly laced with heroin, which causes significant problems across the country especially due to the increased heroin abuse.

Fentanyl is often used in cancer patients and as an anesthetic. It is the most potent opioid available for use in medical treatment, although a tiny ingestion, such as 0.25 mg, can be lethal to the recipient. According to the DEA, its euphoric effects are indistinguishable from morphine or heroin.

The origins of the drug

It was determined that the current drug comes from the Mexican cartels, which buy it from China and blended with heroin. But the abuse has increased worldwide within the last years, in Russia, Ukraine, Sweden, and Denmark.

Mexican authorities have seizure fentanyl labs in the country, and its intelligence units have indicated that the precursor chemicals came from companies in Mexico, but other ones were imported from Germany, Japan, and China, according to a statement from the authorities.

The last peak in the overdose rates was not the first one to happen due to the drug, between 2005 and 2007 over 1,000 deaths were attributed to Fentanyl. Many of those deaths occurred in Chicago Detroit and Philadelphia.

As for the solution back then, authorities managed to trace back the incidents to a single lab in Mexico that produced the drug to blame. The place was identified and dismantled, something that put an end to the surge.

However, the differences between the current outbreak and the past one are that this time the fentanyl has many analogs is wider geographically and involves a wide array of individuals, including some new and experiences abusers.

There have been fentanyl-linked deaths in New Hampshire, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Pennsylvania. In New York, a network was dismantled, and these individual were linked to at least three overdoses in the area.

Source: DEA