TBI issues safety warning after cocaine tests positive for fentanyl

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee Bureau of Investigation agents say they’re on heightened alert with a new discovery about how deadly drugs are being used.

For the first time in Tennessee, the drug fentanyl is showing up in cocaine.

“If you are a drug user, stop. Seek help. This is serious. People are dying," said T.J. Jordan, assistant director for the TBI Drug Division.

A TBI press conference Friday was fueled by the recent discovery of fentanyl showing up in cocaine.

It's a drug so powerful, a size of a salt grain can overdose a person.

“If I had something on my shoulder that looked to be baby powder, and I went like this, I could very easily overdose and become horizontal that quick," said Jordan as he brushed off his shoulder.

Authorities are even changing the way they handle crime scenes because the risk of coming into contact with fentanyl can be deadly.

“When you find a package and you think it's cocaine, you usually test it, but now we take it to the office, make sure it's inside and no wind blowing. If that fentanyl get into you, you're going to have a problem," said Assistant Special Agent Darryl Harrison with the West Tennessee Violent Crime and Drug Task Force.

Fentanyl has taken off over the years.

In 2013, TBI only found 12 samples containing the deadly drug.

In 2014, there were 34 samples.

It jumped up to over 100 samples in 2015 and in 2016, over 200 samples.

This year already, the number of samples identified has more than tripled.

“The fact we know it’s here is the reason we’re sounding the alarm today," said Josh Devine with the TBI.

TBI agents say cocaine is typically used as a recreational drug, experimented with by college students and party goers.

They say cocaine use is on the rise and any signs of fentanyl in it, adds extra danger to the already illicit and harmful drug.

Agents think cocaine use could be increasing because Colombia is distributing the drug heavily again.

“We do have a problem here and we want to alert the public; it’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when," said Tommy Farmer, special agent in charge with the TBI.

Authorities urge parents to speak to their children and understand how deadly even a sprinkle of this drug can be.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction, you’re asked to call the Redline at: 1-800-889-9789.

Fentanyl can be absorbed through the skin and is 50 to 100 times as potent as morphine, the TBI said.