Experts agree that the powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl and its even deadlier relatives pose potential hazards to police and emergency responders who come in contact with the drugs. But there is also concern that the risks are being overblown, potentially creating unnecessary stress for emergency workers, reports Philly.com.
Sometimes quoting law enforcement sources, media outlets are routinely stating that just touching fentanyl can cause an overdose or even death — a contention that medical toxicologists say is scientifically impossible.
"I hope this doesn't turn into hysteria," said Andrew Stolbach, an emergency physician and medical toxicologist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. "I don't want this to make people afraid of doing their jobs."
Toxicologist Stolbach added some context to the DEA's recent news release on fentanyl exposure: "Yes, two to three milligrams of fentanyl would be sufficient to make most people stop breathing if it found its way into the bloodstream. However, fentanyl just isn’t absorbed through skin into your blood quickly or efficiently enough to make this kind of dose possible from incidental contact. Fentanyl is absorbed much better by inhalation and through [mucous membranes] but we feel like these routes of exposure are much less likely with routine precautions and good common sense."