A recent report making its way around social media involving shopping carts and possible skin contact with drugs has many people sharing… and some experts scratching their heads.
The claim is that people should wipe down shopping cart handles because there is a risk they could come into contact with fentanyl, a powerful painkiller that is at the center of the opioid epidemic. The warning came from a Facebook status which encouraged people to copy and share its contents, something the Leachville Police Department in Arkansas had no trouble doing which led to several media outlets running the story.
Some questioned the post’s accuracy, however, and the police station deleted the post later Thursday, applogizing for not looking into the claim further.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, overdosing on fentanyl is indeed dangerous and potentially deadly in small amounts, and black market powdered fentanyl is blamed for some of the 20,000 deaths per year attributed to synthetic opioid abuse.
Police said a 10-year-old Miami boy died in July after walking home from a neighborhood pool, and autopsy results showed he had fentanyl and heroin in his system. However, investigators do not know how the boy came into contact with the drug, only that it is believed to have happened somewhere between the pool and his home.
A warning from the Drug Enforcement Agency this year also makes the claim that skin contact with fentanyl can lead to a dangerous overdose, citing the CDC and National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. However, both health agencies reversed their position after the DEA’s warning came out because they said there wasn’t enough research to those this was as big a threat as initially believed.
Medical experts also said after a police officer fell unconscious due to believed contact with fentanyl that it is extremely difficult for the drug to be absorbed through the skin.
“Fentanyl, applied dry to the skin, will not be absorbed,” said Dr. Ed Boyer, a medical toxicologist at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Young Women’s Hospital, in an article reported by Slate. “There is a reason that the fentanyl patches took years [for pharmaceutical companies] to develop.”
Louisiana health experts said opioid deaths in the state rose from 155 in 2012 to 305 in 2016, but they believe those numbers are under-reported. Governor John Bel Edwards said in September that grants worth around $1 million from the CDC will help state health officials collect more data about opioid abuse and deaths in Louisiana to help them understand the scope of the problem, and find ways to combat it.