An Ohio police officer suffered a near-fatal drug overdose after he tried to brush what was believed to be powdered fentanyl off his shirt with his bare hand, authorities said.
East Liverpool Officer Chris Green had just carried out a traffic arrest of two drug suspects on Friday night. Another officer pointed out the white substance on Green’s shirt, the same substance that was allegedly strewn about in the suspects’ car.
“Just out of instinct, he tried to brush it off — not thinking,” Police Capt. Patrick Wright told Youngstown’s WKBN-TV.
At that point, Green was no longer wearing the protective gloves and mask he’d donned to search the car for evidence, the captain said.
An hour later, Green passed out at the station.
Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine, can enter a person’s body through inhalation and through skin contact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns.
It ultimately took four doses of the opioid antidote Narcan to revive Green, Wright said.
“Chris is a big, strong guy. He’s an ex-[mixed martial arts] fighter, 220-something pounds of solid muscle, and it overtook him just like that,” Wright told WFMJ News. “If you really think about this, these drugs could be used as a weapon of mass destruction. All you have to do is walk into any room, flip it into the air and people are going to start dropping out.”
Just two milligrams of fentanyl is enough to kill a person, according to Dr. Nora Wolkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
In a safety alert video released by the Drug Enforcement Administration, two New Jersey detectives describe feeling like they were “dying” after inhaling a small amount of the drug that “poofed up into the air” as a bag containing fentanyl was sealed.
“It was just a little bit … and that’s the scary thing about it,” says D. Kallen, an investigator for New Jersey’s Atlantic County Task Force.
Wright, speaking to HuffPost on Monday morning, said Green continues to feel unwell and plans to return to a hospital for evaluation.
As for exactly what was in the powder, police said the suspects first identified the substance as cocaine. After a field test came back negative for that drug, they said it was fentanyl, WFMJ reported.
Wright told HuffPost that it could take up to a month for test results on the substance to come back. He said the two suspects will likely face additional charges related to the officer’s overdose.
“They put everyone in danger that was at the scene, in the car,” he said.
Asked about the suspects’ health, Wright said one of the men complained about a potential asthma attack and an ambulance was called. Another officer also reported feeling unwell but did not require medical treatment. Wright suggested that the suspects had a higher tolerance for the drug than Officer Green did.
Like many other police departments dealing with America’s opioid epidemic, this wasn’t the first time that the East Liverpool Police Department made news over an opioid overdose. Last September, the department’s Facebook page shared a chilling photo of a couple passed out in a car after overdosing on an opioid. A child was also in the vehicle.
The photo quickly went viral and drew controversy, with viewers expressing distress over both its graphic imagery and its disregard for the couple’s privacy.
In publishing the photo, the police department acknowledged that it could be upsetting but concluded that the tragedy of the opioid crisis should not be hidden.