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Ohio Scientist Advises DEA to Continue Caution in Dealing with Fentanyl

Agent in hazmat gear examines substances believed to be fentanyl
U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency
Agent in hazmat gear examines substances believed to be fentanyl

Since 2016 the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has been telling its agents, police and first responders that just touching the drug fentanylcan be lethal. Some researchers now say evidence doesn’t support such a dramatic advisory.  But one Ohio scientist says the DEA should continue the warning anyway.

The risks of handling unknown substances at drug busts

Eric Adkins, MD, Wexner Medical and Medical Research Center
Credit Ohio State University
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Ohio State University
Eric Adkins, MD, Wexner Medical and Medical Research Center

Dr. Eric Adkins is Vice Chair of Clinical Affairs at Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical & Medical Research Center. He says laboratory studies of pharmacy-grade fentanyl do show incidental contact with the drug poses little risk.

But he says the DEA report isn’t talking about that kind of fentanyl. “One of the problems that you have to worry about, as I understand some of the history around the report was, that certain narcotics are stronger," said Adkins.  "So the concentrations are worse.  And you get things like carfentanil.  If that’s the case, then you want to make sure that you are appropriately prepared.”

Adkins says taking into account worst-case possibilities when dealing with unknown substances at a drug bust or overdose scene makes sense.

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Tim Rudell
Tim Rudell has worked in broadcasting and news since his student days at Kent State in the late 1960s and early 1970s (when he earned extra money as a stringer for UPI). He began full time in radio news in 1972 in his home town of Canton, OH.