PORTLAND, Ind. (WANE) – A powerful opiate causing more alarm in the opiate epidemic, carfentanil, has been discovered in Portland. It’s been used as an elephant tranquilizer and you may know it by the term gray death, as it’s being contributed to overdose deaths across the country.
Police in Portland were set off that carfentanil may be in drugs they took as evidence after one of their own was almost overcome by it.
“First I thought I was having a medical problem,” Portland Police Officer Judson Wickey said. “It felt like my body temperature rose about 20 degrees. A sudden heat wave, I felt tingly.”
In April, Wickey was filing evidence collected at a suspected heroin overdose when what he described happened. He had come into contact with some of the drugs in the evidence. That’s when he knew he was dealing with more than heroin.
“This is the first time we had evidence turn up with carfentanil,” Wickey said.
Carfentanil is an opiate that, according to the Drug Enforcement Agency, is 10,000 times stronger than morphine, and it’s being cut with heroin. It’s dangerous and deadly, and Wickey had come into contact with it.
“I was messing with these [evidence] bags trusting that they were clean, but some was on the outside,” Wickey said.
The evidence Wickey was handling was sent to the Indiana State Police lab, and this week results came back confirming what officers in Portland already thought that carfentanil was in that sample.
Wickey said he didn’t need any medical treatment that spring day, but it’s stuck with his fellow officers.
“It’s making our responding officers extremely paranoid,” Wickey said. “Now they’re reluctant to handle certain types of evidence, but they’re handling it. They’re doing their jobs.”
The department has stopped field testing drugs. That’s when police can handle the drugs and test them to know what the substance is immediately. However, that means having direct contact with the drug and the possibility of having it make contact with bare skin, like in Wickey’s case.
Police received a search warrant of the home where that April overdose happened. That investigation is still ongoing.