As opioid related deaths continue to increase, forensic scientists have had to protect themselves even more from accidental exposure.
Before the use of Fentanyl became more common, the Indiana State Police Drug Unit Lab only had a few doses of narcan on hand in case of emergency.
“Most of those other drugs, an accidental ingestion is not going to be lethal, fentanyl though, can be.”
Fentanyl has made opioid addiction more lethal on the streets, and more dangerous for Drug Unit Forensic Scientists in the lab.
“Just a tiny amount can actually be lethal so we have to be extremely proactive with respect to exposures.”
Forensic Scientist William Bowles says he has seen an increase in fentanyl by itself and mixed into other drugs.
“It can be in a sample of heroin for instance, and that can in itself be lethal exclusive of the heroin danger, and it depends on the percentage of it,” Billy Bowles said, “The higher amount of fentanyl you see, the more dangerous it becomes.”
Since forensic scientists have to sample and analyze various drugs, the risk of accidental ingestion is always there.
“There’s several ways that it could gain entry to the body, so we have to be aware of all of those, and take precautions against them,” said Bowles.
“Since the risk of fentanyl exposure is higher than ever, each forensic scientist working in the drug unit has a dose of narcan in their lab coat pocket at all times.”
“If they need to administer it or some other analyst working with them can administer it for them, we don’t ever work alone so there’s always a buddy system. So if someone else sees someones in trouble, they can go ahead and take action as well.”
Drug overdoses are the leading cause of death among Americans under 50, according to the New York Times.