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Local law enforcement taking more precautions with drug evidence
Protocols changed to deal with highly toxic substances
A reporter holds up an example of the amount of fentanyl that can be deadly after a news conference about deaths from fentanyl exposure at DEA Headquarters in Arlington Va., on June 6.

In the wake of new opioid overdoses, local law enforcement agencies are changing some protocols in how they interact with evidence.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation identified the counterfeit pills connected to a handful of overdoses in central Georgia earlier this month.

The lab determined the pills were a mixture of cyclopropyl fentanyl and U-47700, two opioid substances stronger than morphine.

‘It is unknown how the human body will react to this drug since it is not intended for human or veterinary use,” the GBI wrote in a news release.  “Cyclopropyl fentanyl had not previously been seen in Georgia.”

With the rise of opioid overdoses this year, Hall County Multi-Agency Narcotics Squad Lt. Don Scalia said agents will no longer field test anything suspected as heroin.

“We just triple-bag it and send it straight to the GBI,” Scalia said. “We try to handle it as little as possible just to get that accomplished, and that’s really for officer safety reasons.”

The GBI said both drugs found in the counterfeit pills are highly dangerous and “extremely toxic in even the smallest quantities” through inhalation or absorption through the skin.

Gainesville Police Sgt. Kevin Holbrook said the department is making sure “that each officer has the protective equipment to deal with” these substances in the field.

Nitrile gloves are issued to every officer on patrol and also kept in their vehicles to make sure none of these potential compounds seep through the skin.

“That’s one of the protective measures that we’ve taken,” Holbrook said.

Both cyclopropyl fentanyl and U-47700 were outlawed with legislation signed April 17.

In the first four months of 2017, the GBI reported 50 cases of U-47700 and/or furanyl fentanyl, which had led to 17 deaths.

A lethal dose of heroin is about 30 milligrams, Scalia said, but a lethal dose of fentanyl and its various versions would be around 3 milligrams.

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