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TBI Issues Warning after Cocaine Samples Test Positive for Fentanyl

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation issued a warning Friday after several samples of cocaine submitted by law enforcement agencies in middle and east Tennessee tested positive for fentanyl.

Fentanyl has typically been associated with samples of heroin or pills compounded to resemble prescription opioids.

A representative with the TBI said this marks the first time cocaine samples have tested positive in a TBI lab for fentanyl, a narcotic painkiller.

“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.

“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.”

According to investigators, certain doses of fentanyl can be 50 to 100 times as potent as morphine. The drug can reportedly impact people who have not it ingested it. TBI agents said the drug can absorb through the skin and put people at risk of an opioid overdose.

“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?”

In 2013, the TBI processed just 12 drug samples that tested positive for fentanyl. In 2016, the TBI’s Forensic Scientists tested 209 drug samples that tested positive for fentanyl or one of its forms. With more than two months remaining in 2017, lab submissions of drug samples testing positive for fentanyl or one of its forms total 320.

The investigations into the origins of the samples are ongoing.

Anyone struggling with drug addiction issues was asked by the TBI to contact the Tennessee REDLINE at 1-800-889-9789.

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