Dan­ger­ous drugs cir­cu­lat­ing in Amer­ica

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The Amer­i­can So­ci­ety of Crime Lab­o­ra­tory Di­rec­tors (ASCLD) is is­su­ing an ur­gent pub­lic alert re­gard­ing the dan­gers posed by drugs cur­rently cir­cu­lat­ing Amer­ica’s streets and neigh­bor­hoods as a re­sult of the cur­rent opi­oid cri­sis. This alert is in­tended to help the pub­lic rec­og­nize and avoid sus­pi­cious ma­te­ri­als when they are nearby.


“The threat is un­prece­dented,” warns ASCLD Pres­i­dent Ray Wick­en­heiser. “Some of the clan­des­tine sub­stances be­ing sold or made ac­ces­si­ble have for­mu­la­tions that are so toxic that it’s bet­ter to con­sider them poi­son.”

The street drugs the pub­lic may be ex­posed to can be so dan­ger­ous that even trace amounts can be fa­tal when in­gested, in­haled or even ab­sorbed through the skin. Car­fen­tanil, a drug 100 times more lethal than fen­tanyl and 10,000 times more lethal than mor­phine, is a drug used to tran­quil­ize ele­phants, yet is now avail­able on the streets. A lethal dose is ap­prox­i­mately 20 mi­cro­grams, which is about the size of a grain of salt. The prob­lem is so se­ri­ous that it re­quires sci­en­tists work­ing in crime lab­o­ra­to­ries across the United States to take ad­di­tional spe­cial pre­cau­tions to pro­tect their own safety.

Ac­cord­ing to Wick­en­heiser, ap­prox­i­mately 94% of all crime lab­o­ra­to­ries in the United States com­pile and share data per­tain­ing to drug ev­i­dence sub­mis­sions. “Crime lab­o­ra­to­ries see and iden­tify a va­ri­ety of drugs, com­pil­ing statis­tics from across many law en­force­ment agen­cies. There is a di­rect re­la­tion­ship be­tween the kinds of drugs we are see­ing in our lab­o­ra­to­ries and the spike in over­dose deaths be­ing re­ported in hos­pi­tals across the coun­try.”

ASCLD warns mem­bers of the pub­lic to pay close at­ten­tion in or­der to rec­og­nize and avoid dan-

ger­ous drug para­pher­na­lia. Drugs seen in Amer­ica’s crime lab­o­ra­to­ries are of­ten pack­aged, trans­ported, and used with com­mon house­hold items. Items to be avoided in­clude: Pills, tablets, or uniden­ti­fied candy Pow­ders, es­pe­cially those that are white or gray in color Glas­sine (wax pa­per) pack­ets, small knot­ted plas­tic bag cor­ners or zi­plock bags Clear cap­sules that con­tain pow­der Rub­ber bal­loons or con­doms Small, brightly colored pack­ages Sy­ringes or spoons Stick­ers or la­bels that seem out of place (po­tent drugs may be on the ad­he­sive side) The fol­low­ing crime lab data un­der­score the na­ture and sever­ity of the prob­lem: In the first six months of 2017, there was a 19% in­crease in opi­oid sub­mis­sions to crime labs as com­pared to all of 2016. In 2016, there were over 22 dif­fer­ent types of fen­tanyl (a pow­er­ful opi­oid pain med­i­ca­tion) iden­ti­fied in crime labs. 2017 has seen a 54% in­crease in fen­tanyl cases sub­mit­ted to crime labs.

Be­tween 2012 and 2016, lab­o­ra­to­ries have wit­nessed a 6000% in­crease in fen­tanyl cases. This in­crease cor­re­sponds di­rectly with the over­dose deaths be­ing seen na­tion­wide.

Case back­logs have in­creased by roughly 28% in the last year due to the in­creas­ing case sub­mis­sions, case com­plex­ity and dan­ger of the drugs now be­ing seized by law en­force­ment.

Foren­sic sci­en­tists work­ing in Amer­ica’s crime lab­o­ra­to­ries have seen first-hand, the kinds of ma­te­ri­als and con­tain­ers that may pose the great­est threat. This pub­lic alert is based on their di­rect ex­pe­ri­ence ob­serv­ing and an­a­lyz­ing these dan­ger­ous drugs.

The Tulsa Po­lice De­part­ment Foren­sic Lab­o­ra­tory has iden­ti­fied more fen­tanyl re­lated cases this year than the pre­vi­ous three years com­bined.


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