CDC Nixes Misleading Video About Cops’ Risk of Fentanyl Overdose

CDC Nixes Misleading Video About Cops’ Risk of Fentanyl Overdose

July 15, 2022 0 By Jennifer Walker

The CDC removed a video from its website that experts said misled law enforcement officers about their risk of fentanyl overdose on the job, an agency spokesperson confirmed.

MedPage Today previously reported that the video, which lived on CDC’s website for the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), was concerning to experts who said it didn’t provide any proof of fentanyl exposure or overdose.

In response to an inquiry made by MedPage Today about the status of the video, a CDC spokesperson said in an email that it was removed from the website during a review process of NIOSH content for first responders working around illicit drugs.

Jeremy Faust, MD, MS, editor-in-chief of MedPage Today, called the CDC’s action a “great” decision. “People linked to that BS for so long whenever we’d try to correct misinformation,” Faust added.

I am glad that they are finally following the science,” said Ryan Marino, MD, a medical toxicologist at University Hospitals in Cleveland. “This is a big step in combating a pervasive myth that continues to cause very real harms to Americans.”

The video, which was produced about 2 years ago, was created in partnership with a police department that had concerns about exposures their officers might face when responding to these types of incidents, the spokesperson said.

“At the time, the department felt that the video was helpful in providing officers information on how to stay safe in the field,” the CDC spokesperson said.

The agency spokesperson acknowledged that some groups have raised concerns about the tone and content of the video, “including a concern that parts of this video may mischaracterize the risks facing these workers and that it fails to share other potential causes of the health effects seen in the video.”

Currently, a video that illustrates how officers should wear personal protective equipment in situations involving illicit drugs, which previously has been featured as a part of the NIOSH toolkit, remains on the website as a resource for first responders.

“NIOSH will use any newly available data, incident information, surveillance inputs, and health hazard information to inform and update any new guidance or clarifications related to work-related risks of first responders,” the CDC spokesperson said. “For now, the worker protection recommendations in this toolkit remain unchanged.”

The video showed a group of local police officers who were potentially exposed to fentanyl when responding to a 911 call in Virginia. Officers in the video stated that four responders began showing signs of overdose up to 90 minutes after they entered a room that contained illicit drugs. These officers reported blurred vision, dizziness, and weakness. One of the officers fainted during the video, with fellow responders stating that he was “overdosing.”

However, many experts have questioned the events in the NIOSH video, stating that it provides no evidence for a fentanyl overdose. In a CDC report that evaluated the incident, investigators could not determine how the officers in the video were exposed to drugs, and furthermore, their urine screens came back negative for all substances.

The lack of evidence presented in the video — coming from the nation’s leading public health agency — was unsettling for experts like Brandon del Pozo, PhD, a drug policy and public health researcher at Brown University.

“It is surprising to see something with such a basis in conjecture being presented by an agency that has a commitment to science,” del Pozo, also a former police chief, told MedPage Today for a previous story.

Incidents involving supposed overdoses from minimal fentanyl exposure continue to crop up in the news. Most recently, a Kentucky woman claimed she overdosed 10 minutes after picking up a dollar bill off the ground, which she said was covered in fentanyl or a similar substance. Several medical experts have said it’s highly unlikely that she would have been able to overdose in this situation.

  • Amanda D’Ambrosio is a reporter on MedPage Today‚Äôs enterprise & investigative team. She covers obstetrics-gynecology and other clinical news, and writes features about the U.S. healthcare system. Follow