The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation launched a program to provide a potentially life-saving resource to its Special Agents who might come into contact with fentanyl.
In recent years, law enforcement agencies across the country have reported an increase in exposure to the powerful and potentially deadly painkiller, primarily in heroin recoveries. In recent months, TBI crime labs have received several samples of heroin laced with fentanyl and pure fentanyl packaged as heroin. In powder form, fentanyl, a drug classified as an opioid, can be absorbed through the skin and accidentally inhaled. The effects of overdose can range from breathing problems to death. Fentanyl is a fast-acting narcotic analgesic and sedative that is sometimes abused for its heroinlike effect.
In April, the Food and Drug Administration approved a device called Evzio. When administered correctly, the handheld auto-injector delivers a dose of naloxone, a known antidote for opioid overdose. The medicine has no effect in people who are not taking opioid medications.
TBI spent more than two months developing its naloxone program. Initially, the device will be provided to Agents in the TBI's Drug Investigation Division, along with specified Forensic Scientists. The agency plans to expand the program in 2015 to include Agents in the Criminal Investigation Division.
"Every day, our Agents and Forensic Scientists work tirelessly to pursue justice for the people of Tennessee," said TBI Director Mark Gwyn. "This new program better protects them from the risks they might encounter while doing that important work. It also gives them a resource to potentially save the lives of citizens who might unintentionally overdose on opioids."
In order to carry Evzio, TBI personnel must complete an extensive online training, which includes policies for storing, administering and reporting use of the device, in addition to the related Tennessee law. In the most recent legislative session, Tennessee lawmakers approved a bill allowing the use of naloxone in specified circumstances and providing civil immunity for those who administer it in good faith.