The opioid epidemic continues to dominate headlines within the state and throughout the region. Powerful synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl and its derivatives, led to the overdose deaths of 70 individuals in Washington State during 2016 – more than twice the number of fentanyl-related deaths in the previous year. Although much of Washington’s focus is on curbing the opioid crisis, methamphetamine remains a critical threat in the Pacific Northwest. The regulation of recreational and medicinal marijuana continues to pose new challenges for law enforcement even as use of the drug in Washington State has been legal for several years.
InterAgency Board Recommendations on Personal Protective Equipment and Decontamination Products for Fentanyl Exposure
Increased illicit use of opioids, including synthetic opioids such as fentanyl and its analogue carfentanil, is a source of increased risk to responders. Most routine encounters between patients or detainees and EMS or law enforcement do not present a significant threat of toxic exposure. While there are anecdotal reports of public safety personnel being exposed to opioids during operations, they are largely unconfirmed. To proactively address the potential risks, this document establishes guidance for personal protective equipment selection and use, decontamination, detection, and medical countermeasures for first responders who may be exposed to opioids in the course of their occupational activities. Throughout the remainder of this document, the term synthetic opioids will be used to include fentanyl, fentanyl analogues, morphine analogues, the U-series opioids, and others.
The analysis of drug-related overdose death data plays a pivotal role in law enforcement’s efforts to identify and combat drug suppliers, and ultimately drug abuse and related overdoses. At the most basic level, the drugs that contribute to death are an indicator of drug availability in the user market. Analysis of this data also highlights geographic patterns of abuse and identifies at-risk populations, and when coupled with drug treatment statistics, law enforcement drug seizure data, and public health indicators, allows for multi-disciplinary data-driven decisions regarding resource placement and strategic initiatives.
In the last several years, U.S. Law Enforcement has seen a dramatic increase in the availability of dangerous synthetic opioids. A large majority of these synthetic opioids are structural derivatives of the synthetic drug “fentanyl.” Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid currently listed as a Schedule II prescription drug that mimics the effects of morphine in the human body, but has potency 50–100 times that of morphine. Due to the high potency and availability of fentanyl, both transnational and domestic criminal organizations are increasingly utilizing these dangerous synthetic opioids as an adulterant in heroin and other controlled substances. The presence of these synthetic opioids in the illicit U.S. drug market is extremely concerning as the potency of these drugs has led to a significant increase in overdose incidents and overdose-related deaths throughout the nation.
The abuse of illicit drugs, specifically heroin and cocaine, as well as the opioids fentanyl and oxycodone, has contributed to an increase in drug-related deaths in Philadelphia over the last decade. Specifically, drug-related overdose deaths in Philadelphia have risen 43 percent since 2009, with a corresponding 45 percent increase in heroin-positive toxicology test results.