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Spread Of Fentanyl Is Sparking Police Overdoses In Cities Across America

REUTERS/Brian Snyder

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter

The rapid spread of synthetic opioids like fentanyl in cities throughout the U.S. are increasingly posing dangers to law enforcement.

Three police officers in Wisconsin were treated with the opioid overdose reversal drug Narcan after being exposed to fentanyl during drug busts in the Milwaukee area Friday. The potent painkiller is “all over the city” and “surrounding areas,” authorities said, according to FOX 6.

Two officers in Greendale, Wis., arrested two suspects Friday evening at Southridge Mall who were wanted for stealing a vehicle. During a search of the stolen car, the officers were exposed to an unknown substance suspected to be fentanyl, which can be 30 to 50 times stronger than pure heroin.

“The amount of fentanyl that can be deadly is so small that you couldn’t even see it,” Lt. Darin Peterburs of the Milwaukee Fire Department told FOX 6. “The fire department and the police department are going out on a daily basis multiple times a day and encountering heroin and fentanyl.”

The hazmat team for the Milwaukee Fire Department decontaminated the car, along with an officer, following their exposure to fentanyl. In a separate incident, two officers with the Milwaukee Police Department were taken to an area hospital Friday and treated with Narcan after nearly overdosing on suspected fentanyl.

Authorities are investigating both encounters and have a number of suspects in custody.

Law enforcement continues to grapple with the added risk of exposure to synthetic opioids during drug encounters, which are causing first responders to overdose throughout the country.

Body camera footage from police in Columbus, Ohio, recently emerged, showing an officer being revived with Narcan at the scene of a drug bust after suspected fentanyl exposure. (RELATED: Body Camera Shows Overdosing Cop Being Revived With Narcan During Drug Bust [VIDEO])

The footage shows an officer with the Columbus Division of Police suffering a drug overdose in his vehicle. His partner is seen questioning a handcuffed woman in the back of a police cruiser about what substance she had in her car, which she said did not contain any fentanyl to her knowledge.

After injecting the officer with a dose of Narcan in both nostrils, police helped him out of his cruiser and rest on the ground as he recovered.

Fentanyl overtook heroin as the U.S.’s deadliest substance in 2016, claiming 19,413 lives, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of accidental death for Americans under age 50, killing more than 64,000 people in 2016.

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