With fentanyl calls rising, DEA seeks to help first responders separate fact from fiction

Law enforcement in Hawaii are now dealing with fentanyl cases almost daily.
Published: Nov. 14, 2022 at 5:26 PM HST|Updated: Nov. 14, 2022 at 8:37 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Law enforcement in Hawaii are now dealing with fentanyl cases almost daily.

And the Drug Enforcement Agency says new data on the powerful opioid can help keep everyone safe during those encounters.

The DEA recently held a training for police, paramedics, firefighters and others who respond to drug calls last week.

Dozens took part in the two-hour class.

“We’re trying to educate first responders on the newest data that we have to lower the fears,” said Victor Vasquez, assistant special agent in charge with the DEA.

Fentanyl is more powerful than heroin and morphine and it is dangerous to handle, but the DEA said proper equipment and precautions will keep rescue workers safe.

“Touching it alone is not going to give you the overdose feel. You need to have it in your blood system,” said Vasquez, adding that masks, glasses and gloves are critical.

Some first responders have reported overdosing at scenes in other states, but it is rare.

Last month, a Honolulu police officer and a Hawaii County officer self-medicated with Narcan because they reported feeling drowsy after responding to drug cases.

The DEA says the new data shows exposure takes more than just casual contact.

“Keeping it away from your face, primarily your nose, mouth and eyes, because that’s the way the fentanyl is going to get into you,” Vasquez said.

Recognizing the signs of exposure and having access to Narcan or Naloxone, which reverses opioid overdoses, are also incredibly important, according to the DEA.

The agency is offering the class for rescue workers on the neighbor islands next.

Naloxone or Narcan can reverse an opioid overdose.
Naloxone or Narcan can reverse an opioid overdose.(Hawaii News Now)