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TBI details serious new threat to drug users, first responders

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (OSBORNE)  --  The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation has issued a dire warning about a deadly new threat to illicit drug users.

The TBI says that first the first time the agency’s labs in Nashville and Knoxville have discovered fentanyl in cocaine samples seized by local police.

Fentanyl is a man-made depressant created in clandestine labs in China and Central America. The synthetic drug is cheap, so dealers add it to cocaine or heroin to increase their profits.

Fentanyl can be 100 times more potent than morphine. So potent an Ohio police officer earlier this year overdosed when his bare hand came in contact with the drug at a crime scene.

TBI Special Agent Tommy Farmer says the agency’s labs have been tracking a dramatic rise in the presence of fentanyl in heroine samples for years.

“In 2015 the total number of the samples containing fentanyl, or an analog of fentanyl, was at 105. That number jumped last year to 209.

With fentanyl now showing up in cocaine samples for the first time, TBI Assistant Director T.J. Jordan has a stark warning for users and dealers.

“If you are a drug user, stop! Seek help. This is serious. People are dying. If you are a drug dealer…I’m here to tell you today that the TBI Drug Investigation Division will pursue you relentlessly, and you will be public enemy number one.”

Exacerbating the fentanyl threat, thousands of Tennesseans initially hooked on prescribed opioid medications are now turning to heroin and cocaine as state and federal authorities choke off easy access to pain the pills.