Occupational Risks To People Encountering Opioids While Working

Growing Presence Of Newer Drugs Spurs Safety Concerns
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Scott Gordon

The Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene stocks two naloxone brands in its toxicology testing area.

Law enforcement officers, emergency medical workers and lab technicians are trained to minimize their exposure to dangerous substances. The increasing use of powerful opioids — which are dangerous to inhale or even touch in very small amounts — is adding unpredictability to these risks.

Occupational exposure to illicit drugs is increasingly recognized as an issue given the changing nature of the opioid epidemic. Miniscule amounts of substances like fentanyl and carfentanil, which are often mixed with heroin, can easily cause overdoses among people deliberately using them. In many cases, the effects of these synthetic opioids, including novel fentanyl analogs, is not well understood given a lack of clinical research.

There is a growing awareness of risks that synthetic opioids create, though. Agencies that deal with the opioid epidemic are increasingly stocking naloxone, a medication used to treat overdoses, in the case of accidental exposure. More broadly, they're adapting safety protocols to anticipate a changing set of risks.

Listen to Wisconsin Public Radio reporter and host Brady Carlson interview WisContext associate editor Scott Gordon about the occupational hazards posed by synthetic opioids.

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