Opioid crisis puts the lives of officers in danger

The Missouri State Highway Patrol is being trained to protect themselves if they come in contact with fentanyl with its antidote, Narcan. (Louis Finley/KTVO)

Fentanyl is a big city problem that small towns fear will trickle down to residents.

The drug is mostly used for patients under anesthesia and prescribed in patch form, absorbed through the skin, to dying patients to make chronic pain bearable.

Officers are being exposed to fentanyl, which is absorbed through the skin, during routine searches. This is giving the officers a contact high, which can lead to an overdose.

"It can be during a traffic stop, during an investigation at a home, at a crash site. It can happen anytime," said Missouri State Highway Patrol (MSHP) Sargent Eric Brown.

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, the illicit-form of the drug is produced in labs in China, then smuggled to the United States through Mexico.

"It's something that officers have to be aware of making sure they're protecting themselves at all times," Brown said.

The MSHP is being trained to protect themselves if they come in contact with the drug by using its antidote, Narcan.

"The Highway Patrol is currently in the process of training our officers in the use of Narcan and Nalaxzone, and will be issuing it to officers as it becomes available," Brown said.

Narcan counteracts the effects of the opioid. The spray is administered to an overdosing victim through the nose.

Adair County Prosecutor Matt Wilson has advised officers not to conduct field tests. Wilson said this will change little for the prosecution.

"The changes that will take place are going to be that it's going to be more of a case by case basis to determine whether or not someone is held. They will likely be taken into custody," Wilson said.

Wilson said it may take six to eight months for the lab results to return.

"We can still get the information we need through the crime lab, but we also have to preserve our officers' safety and keep them safe," Wilson said.

According to a New York Times report, opioid deaths are wide-spread and on an upward trajectory.

The report said in 2016, opioid related deaths were higher than individual peak death years for HIV, car crashes and gun violence.

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