By now, most employers are aware of the Opioid Epidemic. But are they aware of another dangerous epidemic that is growing? Fentanyl- a potent opioid has been steadily on the rise. And even more disturbing, is the combination of Fentanyl and Cocaine, and the combination of Fentanyl and Heroin. The City of Baltimore, a city heavily affected by the opioid epidemic, recognizes that most of the heroin on the street is now almost always laced with the highly dangerous synthetic opioid fentanyl, according to a new study led by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
Public Health Challenges
A recent study highlighted some public health challenges caused by fentanyl-adulterated cocaine:
- First responders and those present at the scene of a cocaine overdose may consider administering Naloxone even if the patient denied using opioids.
- Fentanyl is very dangerous and powerful and dramatically increases the risk of lethal overdose.
- Opioid-naïve individuals that have been using fentanyl-free cocaine lack a potentially life-saving tolerance for opioids. Adding fentanyl to their drug of choice puts this group at an even higher risk of fatal overdose.
- Opioid-naïve cocaine users are typically not targeted by current harm reduction strategies and public messages concerning opioid overdose. A lack of education and access to critical resources, including naloxone —the lifesaving overdose reversal drug— render this population more vulnerable to a fatal overdose.
What Steps Can the Employer Take?
Consider adding Fentanyl to your current non-DOT testing program. But even more important is educating your management team and employees on the dangers of substance abuse. An effective substance abuse policy paired with employee education will not only enhance your testing program but may save a life.
*Nolan, M. L., Shamasunder, S., Colon-Berezin, C., Kunins, H. V., & Paone, D. (2019). Increased presence of fentanyl in cocaine-involved fatal overdoses: implications for prevention. Journal of Urban Health, 1-6.