TBI issues warning after cocaine samples found laced with dangerous drug fentanyl

A photo from TBI shows the cocaine that tested positive for the fentanyl in the Nashville lab.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is urging caution, especially among recreational drug users, after several samples of cocaine submitted for testing by law enforcement in Middle and East Tennessee tested positive for fentanyl.

Fentanyl is a powerful narcotic painkiller which can be 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine. Previously, fentanyl had mainly been identified in samples of heroin or in pills compounded to resemble legitimate prescription opioids. This is the first time cocaine samples had tested positive for fentanyl in the TBI lab.

The investigation into the fentanyl’s origin is still ongoing.

“For some time now, we’ve warned about the dangers surrounding fentanyl for those struggling with opioid or prescription drug addiction,” said T.J. Jordan, Assistant Director of the TBI’s Drug Investigation Division in a TBI news release. “This submission, however, changes the game. It proves the serious risk now also applies to recreational drugs beyond opioids. To be blunt: What you might buy and use, thinking it’s a good time, could cost you your life.”

“Our standard contact is to not touch anything, especially powdery substances that we don’t know what they are,” said Rural/Metro Captain Brandon Douglas.

Douglas says even with these TBI findings, Rural/Metro is already prepared for overdoses.

“Generally it’s county-wide where we’ve seen an increase,” said Captain Douglas.

TBI only processed 12 samples that tested positive for fentanyl in 2013. That rose to 209 samples last year, and there have already been 320 this year with two months to go.

“Drug dealers don’t care about the lives of their customers. They only care about making money,” said TBI’s Tommy Farmer, who oversees the Tennessee Dangerous Drugs Task Force. “What you think might be high-quality cocaine may very well have been cut with any number of substances, some of them potentially deadly. Why take the risk with something that could kill you?”

Anyone struggling with drug addiction issues should contact the Tennessee REDLINE at 1-800-889-9789.

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