Toxic Drug Fentanyl is a Growing Threat Across the Nation

Toxic Drug Fentanyl is a Growing Threat Across the Nation

Across the United States, law enforcement officials are taking new precautions against a drug 50 times more powerful than heroin—fentanyl is a drug so toxic that just a few grains can be deadly. According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, just two to three milligrams of fentanyl (equivalent to five to seven grains of salt) can cause respiratory depression, cardiac arrest or death.

Fentanyl has been used legally for decades, often as a painkiller for cancer. In the past five years, however, it has contributed to the opioid epidemic as illegal forms of the drug produced in China and Mexico have spread throughout the country and killed many. Law enforcement encounters with fentanyl rose from 1,000 in 2013 to more than 14,000 in 2015, according to federal data.

Law-enforcement officials are at risk of unintentional overdoses while going through their regular work routine, even amidst new policies and safety procedures.

Some are reluctant to store evidence like cellphones or laptops in their offices, or even enter a home before putting on personal protective equipment. Prosecutors in New York City have also been discussing the logistical concerns of having fentanyl in the courtroom. No matter how many precautions are taken, fentanyl is still extremely dangerous—even narcotic sniffing dogs have overdosed in homes where fentanyl was present.

“Undercover detectives can’t ask a dealer to wait until they put on a nitrile glove before purchasing drugs,” said Deputy Chief Kastranakis of the NYPD.

According to Ron O’Brien, prosecuting attorney of Franklin County, Ohio, “you can take as many precautions as you want, but it’s still very dangerous stuff.”

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