On Thursday, Dec. 7, a series of radio based public services announcements (PSA) aimed at raising awareness about opioids were launched throughout upstate New York.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) partnered with local radio group Entercom Rochester and its ongoing “War on Addiction” campaign.
HSI Buffalo Special Agent in Charge (SAC) Kevin Kelly recorded two separate 30-second agency opioid PSAs that will run on six Rochester-area stations and one Buffalo area station for the next several months.
The PSA campaign will educate the public about the agency’s efforts to combat the opioid crisis.
(Some people might think prescription opioids are safer than alcohol or illegal drugs, but the truth is they carry serious risks and side effects. Talk with your doctor about your concerns and make informed decisions about pain management together. Courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and YouTube)
“Our message is twofold. One, we want to arrest the organizations, transnational criminal organizations (TCOs) or whoever is moving this product into our communities,” Kelly said.
“We can’t do it alone and if you have information, give it to us.”
“Our second message is to drive home the fact that opioids are a clear and present danger to society.”
Chief among HSI’s mission areas is the investigation, disruption and dismantling of transnational criminal organizations that illicitly introduce fentanyl, heroin and other dangerous opioids into the United States, and gravely impact the health and safety of our communities.
No community in America is exempt.
The crisis has become so serious that, in October, President Donald J. Trump declared it a public health emergency and implemented of the White House Comprehensive Opioid Response Initiative.
(In an address at the White House, President Trump directed the Department of Health and Human Services to declare the national opioid crisis a public health emergency. Courtesy of TIME and YouTube. Posted on Oct 26, 2017)
According to Kelly and HSI Syracuse Resident Agent in Charge Jake Healey, HSI personnel in the Buffalo area of responsibility (AOR) are vested in the community.
However, they can’t arrest the problem away. There has to be an outreach from law enforcement, community and the manufacturers.
Everybody needs to be involved.
“If you go to any HSI SAC office, they would say ‘we have a heroin/fentanyl problem.’ I don’t think it’s germane to my AOR, I think it’s a nationwide issue,” Kelly said.
“A PSA for us is community outreach, letting them know we are there to help and we’re there working on these cases.”
Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, is 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine.
According to Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) estimates, one kilogram of fentanyl can produce 1 million to 1.5 million pill dosage units.
The Centers for Disease Control estimates that more than 20,000 Americans were killed by fentanyl and fentanyl analogues in 2016, and that number continues to rise.
“The community is starting to get involved, aware and upset with it,” Kelly said. “The radio stations were thankful that we were doing it.”
“Anytime we can get out and bridge the gap with the private sector and our partners in media and our partners in non-law enforcement entities, I think it’s great.”
Risks to Law Enforcement
In addition to being deadly to users, fentanyl poses a grave threat to law enforcement officials and first responders, as a lethal dose of fentanyl can be accidentally inhaled or absorbed through the skin.
(The drug fentanyl is so powerful that if you simply touch it you can overdose quickly. The opiate was developed to treat extreme pain and is usually prescribed to advanced stage cancer patients, but it can be up to 100 times more powerful than morphine. An illegal version of the synthetic drug has been popping up all over the US and is posing a threat to law enforcement officers trying to get fentanyl off the streets. Courtesy of Inside Edition and YouTube. Posted on May 17, 2017)
The onset of adverse health effects, such as disorientation, coughing, sedation, respiratory distress or cardiac arrest is very rapid and profound, usually occurring within minutes of exposure.
If inhaled, move to fresh air, if ingested, wash out mouth with water provided the person is conscious and seek immediate medical attention.
Narcan (Naloxone), the overdose-reversing drug, is an antidote for opiate overdose and may be administered intravenously, intramuscularly, or subcutaneously.
Immediately administering Narcan can reverse an accidental overdose of fentanyl exposure to officers.
Continue to administer multiple doses of Narcan until the exposed person or overdose victim responds favorably.
Canine units are particularly at risk of immediate death from inhaling fentanyl.
(In Florida a police dog named Primus accidentally overdosed after coming in contact with the drug Fentanyl during an October police raid, which has led to changes in the way Police approach narcotics investigations. Courtesy of Wochit News and YouTube)
Field Testing / Safety Precautions
Law enforcement officers should be aware that fentanyl and its compounds resemble powered cocaine or heroin, however, should not be treated as such.
If at all possible do not take samples if fentanyl is suspected. Taking samples or opening a package could stir up the powder.
If you must take a sample, use gloves (no bare skin contact) and a dust mask or air purifying respirator (APR) if handling a sample, or a self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) for a suspected lab.
If you have reason to believe an exhibit contains fentanyl, it is prudent to not field test it.
Submit the material directly to the laboratory for analysis and clearly indicate on the submission paperwork that the item is suspected of containing fentanyl.
This will alert laboratory personnel to take the necessary safety precautions during the handling, processing, analysis, and storage of the evidence.
Officers should be aware that while unadulterated fentanyl may resemble cocaine or heroin powder, it can be mixed with other substances which can alter its appearance.
As such, officers should be aware that fentanyl may be smuggled, transported, and/or used as part of a mixture.
Universal precautions must be applied when conducting field testing on drugs that are not suspected of containing fentanyl.
Despite color and appearance, you can never be certain what you are testing.
In general, field testing of drugs should be conducted as appropriate, in a well ventilated area according to commercial test kit instructions and training received.
Sampling of evidence should be performed very carefully to avoid spillage and release of powder into the air.
At a minimum, gloves should be worn and the use of masks is recommended. After conducting the test, hands should be washed with copious amounts of soap and water.
Never attempt to identify a substance by taste or odor.
Carfentanil: A Dangerous New Factor in the U.S. Opioid Crisis (DEA Officer Safety Alert)
Carfentanil is a synthetic opioid approximately 10,000 times more potent than morphine and 100 times more potent than fentanyl.
The presence of carfentanil in illicit U.S. drug markets is cause for concern, as the relative strength of this drug could lead to an increase in overdoses and overdose-related deaths, even among opioid-tolerant users.
Carfentanil is used as a tranquilizing agent for elephants and other large mammals.
The lethal dose range for carfentanil in humans is unknown; however, carfentanil is approximately 100 times more potent than fentanyl, which can be lethal at the 2- milligram range, depending on route of administration and other factors.