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Preventing Emergency Responders’ Exposures to Illicit Drugs


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Illicit Drugs, Including Fentanyl


Responders are likely to come into contact with a mixture of illicit drugs during routine job duties. These mixtures of illicit drugs can include cocaine, methamphetamines, cannabinoids, cathinones, and opioids such as fentanyl and heroin for example. Exposure* to illicit drugs can be harmful. Although the components of illicit drug mixtures might not be known at the time, emergency responders can use the following information to learn about safe operating procedures, and proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE) when responding to incidents that may involve illicit drugs.


Key Recommendations

NIOSH offers the following recommendations to help prevent emergency responders’ exposures to illicit drugs, including fentanyl:

  • Always wear nitrile gloves when illicit drugs may be present and change them properly when they become contaminated.
  • Wear respiratory protection if powdered illicit drugs are visible or suspected.
  • Avoid performing tasks or operations that may cause illicit drugs to become airborne.
  • Do not touch the eyes, nose, or mouth after touching any surface that may be contaminated, even if wearing gloves.
  • Wash hands with soap and water after working in an area that may be contaminated, even if gloves were worn. Do not use hand sanitizer or bleach.
  • Take training on and follow NIOSH’s recommended Standard Safe Operation Procedures below.

NIOSH has developed a tool-kit for first responders to help with training on this topic.


More Information is available in this article on the CDC website:



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Follow up: While there are clear and present concerns about Fentanyl exposure there are site that suggest there are


Myths and Misinformation About Law Enforcement and Fentanyl Exposure


While it may not be clear and present the level of exposure which causes an actual overdose to that which causes the person exposed to go into a panic mode resulting in a drug like reaction. It is clear that precautions should be taken irregardless to the situation.



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What you need to know about Fentanyl


1. Fentanyl is 50 to 100 times more potent than heroin or morphine.

It is a schedule II prescription drug typically used to treat patients with severe pain or to manage pain after surgery.

2. It is relatively cheap to produce, increasing its presence in illicit street drugs.

Dealers use it to improve their bottom line. Often cutting it into heroin and other street drugs. .

3. Naloxone (Narcan) will work in case of overdose, but extra doses may be needed.

Because fentanyl is far more powerful than other opioids, the standard 1-2 doses of naloxone may not be enough.

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