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NFSTC Notice: Fentanyl Precautions for Responders

Warning IconA barrage of recent news, headlined by the death of Prince, highlights the dangers of opioid-based painkillers and fentanyl in particular. Although prescription fentanyl is not new, versions of the drug are being created and sold outside the controls of normal pharmaceutical production and distribution, resulting in uncontrolled manufacturing, low cost, high availability, and extreme dosages of the drug. Unlike many illicit drugs, the fentanyl being found on the streets is lethal and can affect officers who do nothing more than handle the sample during a routine stop.

Fentanyl is approximately 80 to 100 times more potent than morphine Click To Tweet and roughly 40 to 50 times more potent than pharmaceutical grade (100% pure) heroin.

NFSTC believes widespread general precautions should be taken by all officers, evidence personnel and laboratory analysts who are at risk simply by their exposure to unknown powders and liquids.

Recommended General Precautions:
Fentanyl is manufactured in pill, powder, liquid and patch formats. Fentanyl has been found in heroin and other drugs, so its presence cannot be excluded just because it is not in a traditional form.

Law Enforcement Officers, First Responders and Evidence Personnel:
Proper Personal Protection Equipment (PPE):  Minimum PPE is advised for ALL DRUG-RELATED ENCOUNTERS includes gloves, mask and eye protection.

Processes and Protocol:
Due to the extreme toxicity of this substance in all forms, NFSTC recommends every agency conduct an immediate review of unknown powder and drug collection protocols and evidence processing.

  1. Do NOT open samples or containers that appear to be drugs without PPE. (Don’t know? Don’t open!)
  2. Do not perform any field-testing without PPE and, if possible, in a fume hood.
  3. Communicate with other first responders and emergency personnel when unknown or suspect material is present.

NFSTC believes it is imperative for personnel at every point in this process be properly trained and knowledgeable about the policies and protocols of their agency, and adhere to them.

For a printable page and resources, click here.

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