The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, DEA, is intent on releasing consistent warnings to law enforcement and the American public about the extreme dangers of fentanyl. The public is well-advised to be vigilant when it comes to the warnings issued by the DEA in regard to fentanyl and the profound dangers of this highly addictive, terribly hazardous drug. Fentanyl poses a threat both to users, abusers, and addicts but also third parties that might come into inadvertent contact with this powerful opioid.

The Simple Message From the DEA

When it comes to issuing warnings about fentanyl, the message from the DEA is direct and simple: Fentanyl can kill you.

And fentanyl can kill you in a number of ways. Users, abusers, and addicts overdose in large numbers across the United States each and every week. In addition, innocent third parties also come into contact with fentanyl and end up ill or even suffering an overdose because of that contact. For example, a person involved in cleaning up an illicit fentanyl “pill factory” can end up exposed to the drug and harmed if not outfitted in proper personal protective equipment.  

Power of Fentanyl 

Fentanyl is an extremely powerful opioid. The best way to really understand how powerful – and dangerous – fentanyl is is to compare it to other opioids:

  • Fentanyl is up to 100 times more powerful than morphine 
  • Fentanyl is up to 50 times more powerful than heroin

The dosage of fentanyl is a microgram. A microgram is one-millionth of a gram. In graphic terms, a dosage of fentanyl is the equivalent of a few granules of table salt. Fentanyl has the potential for being lethal in very, very small quantities. 

Forms of Fentanyl

People who use fentanyl for “recreational purposes” use fentanyl in a number of different forms. These include:

  • Powder
  • Blotter paper
  • Tablets
  • Spray

Fentanyl Added to Heroin and Cocaine

The DEA warns that in recent times, fentanyl has been added to heroin and cocaine. This is done for two different reasons, according to the DEA. First, it is added to heroin and cocaine to enhance the “high.” Second, fentanyl is added to heroin and cocaine because fentanyl is cheaper than these other two drugs. In other words, a dealer can make more money by lacing heroin or cocaine with fentanyl.

The DEA further advises that it’s important to bear in mind that a heroin or cocaine user, abuser, or addict may not necessarily know that their proverbial drug of choice has been cut with fentanyl. This exposes a heroin or cocaine user to a potentially deadly risk. 

Fentanyl Sold as Heroin

A major element of the warning from the DEA is that virtually everywhere in the United States, fentanyl is being sold as heroin. In other words, fentanyl is being provided to dealers and users under the guise that it is heroin. 

This is done because fentanyl is cheaper than heroin. When it is disguised and sold as heroin, a fentanyl producer as well as a fentanyl dealer can make more money. 

When fentanyl is disguised and sold as heroin, a particular danger is presented. A user, abuser, or addict thinking he or she is using heroin is very apt to overdose on the drug being ingested. Indeed, this type of scenario can relatively easily result in a fatal overdose. 

Law Enforcement and Risks Associated With Fentanyl

When law enforcement officials are involved in arresting a person somehow involved in the illicit drug trade, these officers historically conduct what is known as a field test at the scene. They test any substance found that may be an illegal drug to ascertain whether it is in fact an illicit substance.

The problem with this long-used practice in law enforcement during the fentanyl crisis is that officials in the field can end up exposed to this dangerous drug. Even if a law enforcement official gets a very small amount of fentanyl onto the skin, or inhales what can be a minuscule amount of the drug, that person can end up experiencing tremendously adverse health effects. For this reason, the DEA recommends that law enforcement officials not undertake field tests on unknown substances. They should wait until they are back at the police station to pursue testing to identify an unknown substance. 

Hazards of Fentanyl Decontamination

As has been discussed throughout this presentation, fentanyl is very hazardous. Even a truly minimal exposure to fentanyl can have severe health consequences. This must be kept in mind when it comes to the matter of fentanyl decontamination. 

If a property is identified as being the site of a fentanyl pill factory, professional assistance needs to be obtained to thoroughly and safely decontaminate the site. A professional fentanyl decontamination company has the experience, tools and equipment, and appropriate agents to return a building to a safe state.