In recent years, fentanyl has been at the center of every conversation regarding Maryland’s overdose crisis. Initially developed for medical care to treat severe pain, this synthetic opioid has increasingly been found in drug supplies across the state, and accounted for 88% of the 2,114 opioid-related deaths that occurred in Maryland last year.

Last month, U.S. Rep. David Trone (D-Md.) introduced legislation to develop a new federal grant program to supply law enforcement agencies with portable drug-screening devices. The POWER Act has two main purposes, according to legislators: first, to reduce the backlog of drugs awaiting testing at law enforcement laboratories, and second, to protect first responders from exposure to fentanyl. While Trone’s intention to combat the opioid crisis is commendable, this bill will do little to prevent overdose fatalities, and will only serve to increase the prevalence of inaccurate information regarding the synthetic opioid fentanyl. There have been a flood of reports of law enforcement getting sick from fentanyl exposure in the line of duty, and beliefs that they were experiencing an overdose.

However, none of these reports have been verified as opioid overdoses — because they simply never were.

The American College of Medical Toxicology examined these instances and concluded that casual skin exposure to fentanyl is very unlikely to cause significant harm, and the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy asserts that safety protocols for fentanyl are no different than handling or coming in contact with other drugs or unknown substances. The myth that fentanyl can cause someone to overdose just by being near it can recklessly put people’s lives in danger who are legitimately experiencing an overdose if first responders and the public hesitate to assist during a life-threatening medical emergency.

It’s sensationalism like this that has perpetuated stigma about people who use drugs and has allowed Maryland’s overdose epidemic to reach such devastating rates.

While law enforcement in Maryland aren’t overdosing from encountering fentanyl on the job, thousands of residents in Maryland are dying because they do not realize that fentanyl is in the drug supply. I urge Congressman Trone to look into the ways that the federal government can support the distribution of fentanyl test strips to rapidly detect fentanyl in a drug sample. Research indicates that when people can detect fentanyl with these strips, they in turn take steps to reduce their overdose risk. At $1 a strip, these lifesaving tests pay for themselves by saving taxpayer dollars which would otherwise be spent on emergency care. Investing in community-based drug checking would put the “power” back into the hands of those most at risk of overdose — people who use drugs.

Owen O’Keefe


(15) comments


Dont know the fentanyl is in the drugs??! Fentanyl has been in Marylands heroin supply since 2006. Like the author of this article, many commentors are clueless as well.


[love] 💉 💊


Over 80% of street level heroin is cut with fennie


Owen, do you have any response to 4twenty? I have no confidence that addicts will use the dipsticks and modify their behavior based on the dipstick results.


The book Dopesick not educate anyone. Only mislead. ThreeCents......your question about the heroin being mixed. Users are definitely going to keep that batch. No user is tossing product due to fennie being cut in.


We've lost so many Marylanders to fentanyl because they don't even know they are ingesting it most of the time. If a person was able to check their drugs before using them they would have a little more information in order to use more safely (slower, with a friend, with naloxone nearby). The road of recovery is not a straight line and people who use drugs deserve access to every available tool to keep themselves alive as they figure out their best path forward. I hope Congressman Trone supports drug checking in the hands of drug users themselves, as well as other interventions like syringe service programs and overdose prevention sites.


Get yourself educated and start by reading the book 'Dopesick'.


An overdose "crisis"?? Tell me again who forces druggies to use drugs.


I've had the feeling that I was the only one in public school who believed the teachers when they said over and over that drugs could ruin your lives, and just say no. I still don't get what is so difficult to understand about that. [tongue_smile]


Also, in case this subject comes up, this is mostly NOT a big pharma problem. Most addicts did not start with opioids prescribed to them.


Exactly three. There were some, but most thought, despite the very public warnings, that "it was cool to get high on oxy", only to realize that the warnings were right, and got addicted. There is not now, nor has there ever been, a non-addictive opioid. Opioids are extremely effective as a medication for extreme pain. It is not meant for a toothache.


Doctors that over prescribe and drug chains that lie to doctors.


Total b.s. Users need to own up an accept responsibility for there actions. In this case drug use. To blame it on doctors and pharmacies is ridiculous. I use drugs often. And have for over 20 years. I have never cried that its the doctors fault or anyone else's. Why? Because its not . my choice. No fault. People nees to own there own poop and quit whinning. I am sorry for any and all who have suffered the pains of an overdose. Users. Families and friends. Bottom line its all on the user


My mommy forces me to do drugs. And so does the Frederick Post


I don't know. If I am a heroin addict and my fentanyl dip stick test (?) comes up positive, am I going to toss that batch away and go back to the heroin store tomorrow? What percent of heroin is cut with fentanyl?

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