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South Dakota HB 1025 would perpetuate a dangerous myth

There’s no question that fentanyl is a dangerous drug. Nor is there any doubt that fentanyl has made its way into nearly every community via the illegal drug trade. It’s often mixed with other drugs to provide an additional “punch.”

However, HB 1025 would create a new Class Three felony-level offense when someone exposes police officers, firefighters and other emergency responders to any trace of the drug if the first responder suffers any serious injuries.

Critical overdoses through minimal contact with fentanyl are urban legends

HB 1025 is based on the idea that fentanyl is such a high-powered narcotic – many times stronger than morphine – that merely getting a few specks of the powdered drug on your skin or inhaling a few particles can lead to an overdose. There have even been very dramatic reports and images of officers needing NARCAN shots and hospitalization after merely brushing a small amount of the drug off their uniforms. 

The only problem with the narrative that this law is needed is that the whole idea that the drug is so dangerous is a complete fiction. Studies that have looked into the reports of near-fatal exposure to the drug by first responders have dubbed such incidents the “Nocebo effect.” Expert toxicologists say that “it is impossible to inhale or transdermally absorb enough fentanyl to quickly overdose.”

In reality, officers who have bought into the fear-mongering about the drug may be experiencing panic attacks, along with symptoms like hyperventilation, a racing heart and dizziness or vertigo. 

All drug charges are serious. However, the hype around fentanyl has created an unforgiving legal atmosphere for those charged with crimes related to that particular drug. If this is your situation, experienced legal guidance is wise.