Training for a possible fentanyl epidemic

A blacklight is used to detect traces of fentanyl, which comes in powdered form, on an exposed individual's body. Photo by Amanda Dedicatoria

Drugs, especially methamphetamines, have been a persistent issue on the island…however, if laced with a dangerous opioid called fentanyl, a user’s next high could prove to be deadly.

Over the last couple of days, local law enforcement members, emergency responders, and national guard members have been participating in the Fentanyl Investigation and Response Exercise, a series of trainings to prepare them to take action in the event that the addictive drug is ever found on the island.

In the pharmaceutical industry, fentanyl is a synthetic opioid pain reliever for treating severe pain and is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine.

However, most recent cases of fentanyl-related harm can be attributed to illegally made productions of the drug that are sold through drug markets for its heroin-like effect and cut with other substances such as marijuana, methamphetamine, and spice.

According to Jake, an instructor from Merit Training Programs, an organization that offers emergency responder and law enforcement training, being briefly exposed to the powdered drug can prove to be fatal.

“That is a threat to the public, but also a threat to the law enforcement and first responders because fentanyl is easily inhaled. If you think about two or three grains of salt potentially killing someone my size, a person like your size could die much quicker,” he said.

Participants in the exercise were taught the difference between opioids and opiates, how to intercept a fentanyl lab operation, as well as decontaminate themselves and others in the event of exposure.

While fentanyl cases are unheard of on Guam, the drug is prevalent throughout the United States, Russia, Canada, and China. But after the completion of the training series, Jake says that the island’s law enforcers and first responders are ready.

“They’re ready for it. I think they can use their training to keep people safe – not just themselves, but the common person. If a person were to collapse in a store and you were to help them and it turned out that they had fentanyl on them…Something happened and you were exposed, your life is at risk, too. These people can save your lives,” he said.