INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Operating out of concern that forensic scientists or evidence technicians could be exposed to a lethal dose of the opiate painkiller Fentanyl, Indiana State Police have recently purchased 46 Narcan kits in an effort to keep their employees safe.
The concern is that simply touching or inhaling trace amounts of Fentanyl could lead to an overdose, according to Major Steve Holland, the supervisor at the ISP Crime Lab in Indianapolis.
“The issue is the fact that the last three years we have witnessed an extreme increase – up to nine fold actually – in the number of submissions for Fentanyl,” Holland said. “That is an incredibly large volume to deal with a very deadly substance to be quite frank. Also as alarming is the quantities that we’ve received in these submissions have also increased.
In 2013, the crime lab analyzed 15 cases involving Fentanyl. Last year, it was 64. So far this year – 135.
Holland says the staggering amount of volumes of Fentanyl being brought into the crime lab prompted him act. Fentanyl is often used as a cutting agent for heroin.
“In the simplest of terms, an overdose of Fentanyl can tell your brain to stop breathing. ‘You don’t need to breath.’ But a dose of Narcan will immediately stop that and tell your brain you need to breath,” Holland told I-Team 8 during an exclusive interview Monday. “(Adding Narcan) is a proactive workplace safety matter that we have deployed and for the well-being of our scientists. It was a good decision to do so.”
The Narcan kits, which act as an opiad antidote and can reverse the effects of an overdose, have been distributed among the state police’s four crime labs across Indiana. So far, evidence technicians and laboratory scientists have been trained to use them. Crime scene investigators are next on the schedule, Holland said.
“To this date, thank God, we have not had any bad episodes that we have to had to deal with but should that eventuality happen – we are human – mistakes can happen. We want to be prepared as we can to deal with it. A lethal dose of Fentanyl can be as little as two milligrams.”
While both the case loads and amount of Fentanyl being processed at the state police crime lab have increased, Holland says he doesn’t believe the users out there are simply using Fentanyl to get high. He said it could point to something equally as alarming – that much of the Fentanyl on the streets in Indiana is being mixed with heroin.
Through the third quarter of 2015, Holland said the crime lab had processed 2,223 heroin cases – making heroin number three on a top 25 list of the most frequently identified drugs inside the crime lab. Heroin is only behind marijuana and meth. Fentanyl has shot up the list to fifteenth out of 25. Last year it was 24.
“Fentanyl mixed with heroin is the underlying cause of a lot of what you are hearing about heroin overdose epidemic that we are facing around central Indiana,” Holland said.