The Scary Reason Some Are Calling This Drug a 'Weapon of Mass Destruction'

May 15th 2017

Fentanyl is an opioid that is around 50 times more powerful than heroin, causing deaths across the United States. Now a police officer in Ohio is calling it a "weapon of mass destruction" after a serious incident involving his partner, though at least one expert cautions against hysteria.

heroinWheeler Cowperthwaite/Flickr -

An Ohio officer allegedly got some fentanyl on his shirt after pulling over a drug user last week, and when he wiped it off his shirt without gloves he reportedly overdosed just by touching the drug and had to be sent to the hospital. An officer from his department told Fox 8 he thinks fentanyl and carfentanyl should be considered weapons of mass destruction, considering how easily they can cause people to overdose and die.

Carfentanyl is an opioid that's related to fentanyl, but it's 100 times stronger, making it even more lethal. Consuming just a few granules of carfentanyl can kill someone.

The officer had to receive Narcan, a medication that stops the effects of opioids, so that the overdose wouldn't kill him.

fentanylFox 8 -

Richard Blondell, vice chair for addiction medicine and a professor at the University at Buffalo, told ATTN: it is not possible to overdose on fentanyl simply by touching it. However, he said it's theoretically possible that someone could overdose by touching carfentanyl. 

"Carfentanyl might be fatal it there’s a high dose applied to a break in the skin," Blondell said. "It’s more likely to cause a death if a small dose of pure carfentanyl is accidently inhaled."

Blondell said calling fentanyl a "weapon of mass destruction" is an exaggeration, considering that term applies to things like nuclear bombs. But he explained that fentanyl and carfentanyl can be very dangerous.

nuclear bombNational Nuclear Security Administration/Wikimedia -

"These are the most dangerous drugs that are currently widely available in the illicit market and are responsible for the majority of the 'heroin' overdose deaths," Blondell said. "Most of what is now being sold as 'heroin' on the illicit market contains fentanyl." As ATTN: has reported, fake versions of the anxiety medication Xanax have also been found to contain fentanyl. 

Blondell noted that Russian authorities tried to use a gas that is believed to have been fentanyl-based to knock out militants that were holding people hostage in a theater in 2002. That gas ended up killing over 100 people.

It's unclear if the officer touched fentanyl or carfentanyl, or if the problem is that he inhaled one of the two — but we do know these drugs are definitely deadly.

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