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Health & Science

Ohio Scientist Advises DEA to Continue Caution in Dealing with Fentanyl

photo of substance found at drug bust that may 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 fentanyl can 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.

Dr. Eric Adkins
Credit Ohio State University
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.