At the end of last month, sheriffs from Harris County spread warnings to the public that flyers distributed in the community might be laced with fentanyl. This was in response to several flyers being placed on patrol cars; one of them tested positive in the field for fentanyl after a sergeant showed signs of fentanyl exposure.
Ed Gonzalez is a Harris County sheriff. He said: “She picked it up and didn’t think anything of it, but as she drove to her destination she began feeling a little bit lightheaded and having a few other symptoms.”
However, 13 flyers were sent to the Harris County Institute of Forensic Science and none showed traces of the deadly drug, so the public warning has been rescinded.
Is it possible for the public to be exposed to fentanyl or other drugs in this way? Is it a risk that the public should be aware of?
Public Drug Exposure
Theoretically, it is possible for someone to lace any public item with fentanyl. It is inexpensive; it can cause overdose in very small amounts; and it is invisible if you aren’t looking for it or there is little present. However, in practice, this would not be very effective. Public areas are exposed to weather and wind, and it is more likely that the drug would be rendered ineffective before anyone would be exposed to it. In short, though it might sound like the plot of an espionage or action film, it is highly unlikely in the real world.
There is, however, a very real danger to the public of being exposed to the deadly consequences of untreated drug and alcohol abuse. Even if no one in your family abuses substances, there are still things to look out for in the community that can be life-altering if not fatal to the unsuspecting person.
What are the Risks?
Injection drug users often inject their drugs outside or in public areas. Unfortunately, despite this well-known and widespread epidemic, there are very few safe disposal receptacles where people can safely dispose of their needles and other accompanying paraphernalia. As a result, public restrooms, parks, lakes, and beaches are often littered with dirty needles, cookers, and cottons, especially in areas where there is a high rate of drug addiction. It is not uncommon for patrons of these public areas to accidentally step on a needle or for employees emptying trash cans in these locations to inadvertently get stuck. In addition to accidental ingestion of whatever substance is left in the needle, there is the risk of exposure to HIV, hepatitis C, or infection if the original user was a carrier.
Dangers of Drunk Driving
When someone is so used to being under the influence of alcohol that getting behind the wheel with high blood alcohol content levels is normal practice, everyone on the road and walkways is at risk. Too often, people who have a heavy drinking problem believe they can function normally even if they have been drinking because they think their tolerance is high enough to keep them focused and aware.
The fact is that long-term alcohol use can create unexpected shifts in hormonal release and body function, and tolerance changes in alcoholics can shift swiftly and significantly. This means that at any time, a person who feels that they are “okay to drive” may suddenly be overwhelmed by the level of alcohol in their system and unable to drive safely.
Drugged Behind the Wheel
Similarly, those who are taking prescription drugs of any kind may feel that since they are using these drugs according to their doctor’s orders, they are safe to do anything they would normally do, including drive. People who are taking over-the-counter medications may also feel safe to get behind the wheel, not realizing that they are putting their own lives and the lives of others in danger. Those who combine either of these substances with alcohol are at extremely high risk of bringing harm to the public due to erratic behavior behind the wheel.
Ensuring Safety for Your Community
Though you cannot control the choices of others, you can make choices that protect your own health and safety. Petition your legislators to implement safe needle disposal in public areas. Make sure you are not impaired in any way when you are on the road. If your loved one is struggling with substance abuse and putting the health and safety of others at risk, you can help them to connect with a treatment program that will give them the tools needed to save their own life and the lives of others as well.