White House releases video to help first responders handle fentanyl

August 30, 2018

The White House released a training video Thursday to help first responders seize fentanyl without accidentally overdosing, as police, firefighters and EMS workers face increasing risks on the job due to the sweeping opioid crisis.

The six-minute clip advises responders to take a series of precautions if they suspect they’ll be handling the synthetic opioid, which is highly potent and driving up the number of overdose deaths in the U.S.

“I got this on my hands!” an officer cries out in the video, after touching white power in a dramatized drug bust.

His partner tells him to calm down and wash his hands. Skin contact can be dangerous in large amounts, so responders should wear gloves, though a doctor in the video says it’s a “myth” that touching any amount of fentanyl can lead to illness and death.

First responders have been hospitalized, however, from accidentally ingesting the drug or breathing it in. The administration advises officers to wear respirator masks and eye protection to prevent inhalation and exposure through mucus membranes.

Even as misuse of prescription drugs plateaus, the rate of fentanyl-related deaths is spiking. It drove a 10-percent jump in overdose deaths from 2016 to 2017, according to federal data.

Congress and the Trump administration are trying to crack down on fentanyl traffickers and synthetic opioids that slip into the U.S. via the mail, particularly from China, but the White House says officers must protect themselves on the beat.

“Public safety personnel on the frontlines are increasingly likely to encounter fentanyl and other synthetic opioids when responding to overdose calls, conducting traffic stops, arrests and searches, and securing the border,” said Jim Carroll, acting director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. “This video will be an essential training tool for First Responders as they continue to fight on the frontlines of the opioid crisis.”

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