Potent synthetic opioid poses threat to first responders

(Courtesy: Metro Nashville Police Department)

LEBANON, Tenn. (WKRN) – It’s dangerous enough being a cop or a rescue worker, but now the emergence of a new drug on area streets is taking the threat to a whole new level.

Recently, a potent drug called carfentanil, a synthetic opioid 10,000 times more potent than morphine, showed up on area streets. It’s made to be an elephant tranquilizer, but it is also found cut with heroin making a dangerous deadly drug.

It recently showed up in a Lebanon drug bust. The police department sent that drug sample to the TBI crime lab and it turns out the heroin they submitted for analysis contained a lethal concentration of synthetic opioid known as carfentanil.

“It has the potential of harming or killing first responders,” said Lebanon Police Chief Mike Justice.

The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has also put out a warning to all emergency responders about its dangers.

“It is absolute zero tolerance. We are dealing with a substance that could kill a first responder or law enforcement through transdermal contact,” Justice explained.

The threat is so ominous; Chief Justice sent his officers a warning, including a graphic showing how much heroin it takes to kill a person compared to a lethal dose of carfentanil.

“Two salt grain type granules could kill you,” he said.

The carfentanil threat is so dangerous to officers, Chief Justice says every protocol for handling and searching for drugs has changed.

“We have issued masks and protective gloves and we are doing training with the officers daily and we now have to change the way we package evidence and send it into the labs,” Justice said. “We have to change the way we search vehicles and homes and the officers have to be more careful what they touch in a vehicle. This has heightened our emphasis because we have never seen a drug this powerful, this dangerous.”

The TBI recently sent all law enforcement agencies its new protocol that mandates carfentanil be double-bagged and labeled.

Chief Justice told News 2 if it can be proven that a person died of a heroin overdose, his agency will go after the person who supplied that heroin and prosecute to the fullest extent of the law.

Click here to read more on Tennessee’s Opioid Crisis.