Synthetic opioids remain a serious concern for first responders. While much of the focus is on safety surrounding a fentanyl exposure, not as much information is out there regarding carfentanil and its dangers. A recent article in Police Chief Magazine sheds more light on this problem.
While fentanyl is 100 times stronger than morphine, carfentanil is 100 times stronger than fentanyl. Traffickers use both as cutting agents for heroin to increase the potency. Both look like table salt, and a few granules are enough to be fatal, depending on the drug and the method of exposure.
As carfentanil use spreads as a cutting agent, it is more and more likely you may come into contact with it during the normal course of your duties. These steps may save your life or those of your team:
- If fentanyl is suspected at a scene, do not approach without proper personal protective equipment.
- Fast field decontamination should only be done with cold water.
- Have the overdose antidote naloxone (Narcan) on hand. Multiple doses may be necessary.
This article also delves into the complexities of a multiagency response, describing the differences between law enforcement command and control approach and the fire/EMS approach. Law enforcement agencies should recognize these differences, the reasons behind them and work them into plans, procedures and multiagency exercises.