You Can’t Overdose on Fentanyl by Touching It

German Lopez, writing for Vox:

The latest horror story in America’s opioid epidemic: Police officers are supposedly overdosing just by coming in contact with the synthetic opioid fentanyl. In the most recent example, a Vermont state trooper, acting Sgt. Brett Flansburg, last week reportedly fell ill and collapsed in a parking lot after he was exposed to small quantities of a drug.

This isn’t the first time a similar story has been widely reported. This genre of stories really took off with national reports that an East Liverpool, Ohio, police officer collapsed after he brushed fentanyl residue off his uniform. And there have been similar reports in CaliforniaMassachusettsMichigan, and Pennsylvania.

But there’s one problem: Overdosing on fentanyl just by touching it or by simply being in proximity to it is extremely unlikely, if not impossible. Yet overdose by contact has been a persistent myth about fentanyl since it began supplanting heroin in much of the US’s illicit opioid supply.

Still, these stories and the myth they perpetuate really matter. They suggest that helping people who use drugs can be dangerous. That can lead to unnecessary caution or new requirements, like forcing officers to put on certain equipment when they respond to an overdose — which could then lead to people in need of quick, unhesitating emergency help getting hurt or killed as they wait.

This myth needs to die, and fast.