ISP drug lab expecting more than 400 fentanyl-related cases in 2017

(Provided Photo/ISP)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Indiana’s opioid addiction is seeping its way deep into our state drug testing laboratories. Those labs are now deeply embedded in the fight to stop the deadly drugs. Those street drugs are so dangerous, scientists in the labs have to use tools you probably wouldn’t think of just to stay alive.

Grey death, Jackpot, TNT. Those are just a few street names of opioids circulating on Indiana streets that are killing Hoosiers.

Elizabeth Griffin is the South Zone Drug Unit Supervisor for the Indiana State Police laboratory.

“It’s really dangerous out there,” Griffin said.

Griffin works in the trenches of Indiana’s opioid addiction fight.

“We are seeing heroin, mixtures of heroin and fentanyl,” Griffin explained. “Acetylfentanyl, acrylfentanyl, carfentanil – which is the bull-elephant tranquilizer. It’s very, very strong.”

According to the Drug Enforcement Agency, Carfentanil is 10,000 times more powerful than morphine and 100 times as powerful as fentanyl.

“We’ve seen sometimes in a pinkish powder. We’ve seen white powder, tan powder, gray powder, even like a rock like chunky substance,” Griffin explained. “Any of that can contain any of these things.”

Hoosiers keep overdosing and dying.

“This is June, July, August, September, October, of just powdered items,” Griffin said as she showed the backlog. “Our backlog is large.”

About 3,000 cases, actually.

“We’re at a five-month turnaround right now. Because submissions of drug items and drug analysis are at an all-time high for the year,” Griffin explained. “Right now, we’re getting about 1,200 cases submitted per month. That’s for the whole lab.”

The synthetic, man-made drug, Fentanyl, is a huge concern. Griffin said in 2014, they saw 68 cases of it, 155 cases in 2015 and 263 cases last year.

“So far this year, we’ve seen 363 cases,” Griffin said. “We’ll probably see over 400 cases this year of items that were found to contain fentanyl.”

Inside these laboratories, Griffin said scientists are working new cases every single day. Usually 20-30 cases a week on opioids like fentanyl and heroin.

Griffin said officers in the field are told to be extremely careful if they even think they’re dealing with something fentanyl-related.

“We don’t want them to do a field test on it because of how dangerous it could be,” Griffin said.

In the lab, every scientist carries Narcan in their lab coat. Inside is naloxone, an antidote to opioids.

“If you have been overcome by fentanyl, it can bring you back,” Griffin explained.

Griffin shared photos from last summer, when kilograms of fentanyl were brought inside the lab. The forensic scientist wore a full, self-breathing suit.

“Definitely lab coats, gloves, disposable face masks, and the Narcan that we have in our lab coats,” She explained.

Bottom line, Griffin said they’re working tirelessly to identify and get the drugs off the streets and away from homes like yours.

We asked Griffin about hiring more forensic scientists to help get the work done. She said the State of Indiana has it in the budget to get new labs up and running in Fort Wayne, Lowell and Evansville with the next two to three years.

With those laboratories will come new scientists and employees. In terms of hiring new scientists in the labs in Indianapolis, Griffin said that’s uncertain.

Here are resources, contact information, and links you may find helpful.

  • Click here to read the United States Department of Justice’s Drug Enforcement Agency briefing for first responders about fentanyl.
  • Click here to read the Drug Enforcement Agency’s warning on Carfentanil.
  • For more information about the state’s fight against addiction, and to find resources, click here.
  • If you or someone you know is fighting addiction, here is a link to treatment and help where you live.
  • For resources where you live, click here.
  • You can also dial 211 or call the Call the Indiana Addiction Hotline: 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or you can click here to talk with a live person.