Despite increased awareness, America’s opioid epidemic has shown no sign of slowing down. But while communities all over the country struggle to deal with the dangers created by prescription painkillers and their cheaper cousin heroin, a new warning from the DEA speaks to the increased danger faced by the law enforcement officers tasked with stemming the deadly tide.
According to the Associated Press, acting DEA Administrator Chuck Rosenberg has issued a warning to law enforcement officers and first responders across the country in an effort to bring more attention to the dangers of handling the deadly drugs.
“If you don’t know what it is, assume there’s something in it that will kill you,” Rosenberg said.
And while decades of TV cop dramas may have you believing that grizzled officers and undercover narcs are taking switchblades to bricks to taste their bust and make sure it’s pure, the reality is that increasingly dangerous batches of heroin cut with fentanyl or carfentanil are proving deadly in even the smallest dosages.
In both Ohio and Maryland, law enforcement officers have suffered overdoses from interacting with trace amounts of the deadly opioids. Even drug dogs trained to sniff out narcotics have fallen ill from the potent narcotics. Some officers have taken to carrying doses of the anti-overdose drug Narcan not only for overdose callers, but for fellow cops and their animals as well.
In the Ohio case, the opiates were so strong that a police officer overdosed after simply brushing trace amounts of spilled powder off his desk.
For now, police departments around the country are advising officers to wear protective gloves, glasses and masks while dealing with unknown substances.