State warns Utahns about potential dangers of drug 100 times more potent than morphine

Posted at 9:51 PM, Jun 17, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-17 23:51:20-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- A warning from the state: A deadly prescription drug is turning up on the streets, and it can harm anyone who even touches it.

Police said Fentanyl can be hard to detect, and differentiate.

“It's extremely similar to other opiates and opioids,” said Utah Highway Patrol Sergeant Christian Newlin, who is also a drug recognition expert.

But, it’s more likely to kill.

“The problem that we're finding with Fentanyl is that it's so much more potent than these other opiates, that overdoses and death is extremely comparatively easy as opposed to heroin and morphine,” he said.

Fentanyl is showing up on the streets more and more.

“Sometimes Fentanyl can be easier to get because it is widely prescribed as a long-term pain management drug,” Sgt. Newlin explained.

And it’s nothing to mess with.

Take a situation in Sandy on Wednesday. A parolee was found with some kind of powdered substance. The hazmat team showed up and decontaminated five law enforcement agents who came into contact with the suspected Fentanyl. Authorities evacuated the entire motel, also for decontamination.

“It's absorbed directly through the skin,” Newlin said.

Just touching it can leave someone feeling the effects.

Fentanyl is commonly used in hospitals because it’s 100 times more potent than morphine. That’s why doctors said using it outside of that setting is not only dangerous, it’s deadly.

“The tipping point between its effective dose and when it can actually be lethal can sneak up on you very fast,” Dr. William Hamilton said.

He’s an anesthesiologist at Intermountain Medical Center. Dr. Hamilton said Fentanyl creates a euphoric effect, in addition to relieving pain. Typically, they inject it.

“It can be used as a general anesthetic when mixed with other drugs, and so it's a very useful drug, used every day,” he said.

But Fentanyl is available by prescription in the form of transdermal patches, pills, lozenges and lollipops.

It’s best left to the experts.

But some of the Fentanyl on the streets is slipped into drugs, unbeknownst to the user. A powdered version can be created in a clandestine lab rather than obtained from a prescription, Sgt. Newlin said.

He said it’s often mixed with heroin.

Layton Police recently reported fake prescription drugs laced with the powerful opiate may have led to a recent overdose.

They issued a warning to watch out for the faux drugs, sold under the name Roxicodone.

It can be hard to track down.

That’s why Newlin hopes spreading awareness will help stop this deadly trend.