State mental health department issues new guidance on fentanyl

The Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (TDMHSAS) and the Department of Health issued new guidance and information about fentanyl and what to do in case of potential exposure.

Recent media reports have highlighted stories of exposure to a white powdery substance assumed to be fentanyl and the wide variety of adverse medical reactions that followed. While these stories are disturbing, it is important for everyone involved to separate fact from fiction when talking about fentanyl exposure to avoid unnecessary confusion and panic.

Illicit fentanyl cannot be absorbed through the skin or by touching an item or surface where it is present. When in powder form, fentanyl and its analogs (including carfentanil and fluorofentanyl) cannot be absorbed through the skin. Dissolving the powder in a liquid does not change this property. Wet objects do not pose an increased risk for an overdose caused by casual exposure.

“It’s so important to separate fact from fiction regarding fentanyl because Tennesseans are dying of overdose by the thousands. We hope that these facts will help people struggling with opioid use reach treatment if they need it and find a new life in recovery,” said TDMHSAS Commissioner Marie Williams, LCSW.

“Overdoses are heart-wrenching for those who live through them and for the family and friends of those who don’t,” said TDH Commissioner Dr. Morgan McDonald, MD FACP FAAP. “We are taking every opportunity to provide care and information to those dealing with addiction to prevent deaths and overdoses from fentanyl and opioids.”

What should you do if you believe you have been exposed to a substance that could be fentanyl?

  • Do not touch your eyes, nose, or mouth.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water to remove any substance from your hands.
  • If you begin to experience any adverse medical symptoms, seek medical attention.

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