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Cops say touching fentanyl is making them sick. Doctors say it's impossible

Published: April 29, 2019
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The stories are scary and illustrate just how dangerous police work can be: Cops across the nation, including Michigan, overdosing from accidentally touching fentanyl while searching cars during traffic stops or rendering first aid.

Except toxicologists say the stories also are wrong — and that they're creating unnecessary panic. Touching a small amount of fentanyl won't cause an overdose, experts say.

"If you could absorb drugs by touching them, why would people bother to inject them?'' said Dr. Andrew Stolbach, a medical toxicologist and emergency physician at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. He also is an expert on the subject of fentanyl exposure.

“Drugs like fentanyl and analogs of fentanyl aren't absorbed through the skin very well at all," Stolbach said. "So brief, incidental contact isn't going to cause somebody to absorb a therapeutic dose, let alone a toxic dose." 

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