The Truth About Fentanyl
By Jon Adler, Director, Bureau of Justice Assistance
Under the Attorney General's leadership, the Department of Justice is working vigorously on a number of fronts to pursue criminals who deal illegal drugs, illicitly prescribe opioid pain relievers or smuggle drugs into our country. We are also protecting law enforcement officers and other first responders from opioid-related dangers like those posed by fentanyl, a synthetic substance that is up to 50 times more powerful than heroin.
The Office of Justice Programs' Bureau of Justice Assistance recently hosted an important meeting of those involved in educating first responders on how to perform their duties safely in light of the threat of fentanyl exposure.
The occasion for this meeting was the rollout of a training video for first responders, produced by the Department of Homeland Security's U.S. Customs and Border Protection, one of our federal partners in combating the opioid epidemic. The video is based on the recommendations of a federal working group, which included BJA.
Law enforcement officers—and the public—may hear misinformation about fentanyl, particularly regarding its appearance (it comes in forms other than white powder) and its effects (symptoms of anxiety like dizziness and rapid heartbeat are not necessarily signs of fentanyl exposure). The video, "Fentanyl: The Real Deal," counters some prominent myths, providing the most up-to-date, scientifically based information.
To enhance officer safety, the training video emphasizes the need to wear gloves and additional personal protective equipment when appropriate. The video also advises first responders to avoid actions that may cause powder to become airborne, and to use soap and water promptly to wash potentially contaminated skin. BJA is making the video widely available to those in attendance and the broader first-responder community.
The training video is this administration's most recent effort to provide accurate information to law enforcement and other first responders. When our brave public safety professionals encounter a suspicious substance that may contain fentanyl, we want to be sure they're following facts instead of fable.