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Tulsa Responders Take Caution In Midst Of Synthetic Opioid's Rise

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TULSA -

It's an elephant tranquilizer, 10,000 times more powerful than morphine, and first responders say it's not a matter of "if" the drug will make its way onto Tulsa streets, but when.

"It's not legal in the United States, so those folks who are using it have no idea what it is they are messing with," said Anthony First, Tulsa Police officer.

Carfentanil.

It's a synthetic opioid most commonly used to cut heroin.

It can be solid, liquid, powder, or gas, which makes the substance hard to identify.

And it's potent. So potent, it is causing first responders across the nation to overdose on accident.

"It doesn't take very much at all, as little as five grains of exposure to this can knock someone down and put them into immediate respiratory arrest," First said.

So far, there have been no reported cases of Carfentanil overdoses in Oklahoma, but First says it's only a matter of time.

"We know it's here, we know it's coming this way, and the nature of the drug is if a drug finds itself on the coast typically about two to three years later it will be here in Oklahoma," First said.

The Tulsa police and fire departments have started training first responders on what Carfentanil is and how to handle it.

"Making sure they understand that that is out there, that awareness piece is the first step," said Michael Baker, Tulsa Fire Department EMS chief.

The second step is making sure first responders have the equipment they need. 

"We have since learned that regular latex gloves are simply not thick enough to stop this drug from passing through them," Baker said. 

So the police department is pushing for new nytrile gloves. 

The fire department is making sure  first responders use the gear they already have — masks, gloves and sleeves — anytime they feel Carfentanil might be at the scene.

"It's very important in general to continue the practices that we do everyday: wear proper protective equipment no matter what we are exposed to," Baker said. "It's just adding that and being aware that now there is something else out there that could cause us risk."

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