Fentanyl is a real and dangerous drug. Tens of thousands of deaths are attributed to the synthetic opioid every year. But — and this is crucial — you have to take the stuff in order to suffer an overdose. Police in America have created a very different impression: that mere incidental contact with powder fentanyl, or breathing in proximity to it, can be life-threatening.
While medical experts, journalists and anyone with a dose of common sense have been calling out these episodes as thin-blue-line theater, it seems as if law enforcement on the whole has convinced themselves of their own drug war propaganda. Now it’s an open question whether any given officer is staging their collapse or having a psychosomatic reaction based on falsehoods disseminated by no less an authority than the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. It’s gotten so bad that health researchers have looked for ways to reduce false beliefs about fentanyl among police, as this paranoia interferes with overdose rescues.
This week gave us an alarming example of how the fentanyl lie has jumped from the precinct into civilian life. The story above — recounting how a mother of six apparently fell unconscious after picking up a dollar bill with powder residue on it — came straight off the woman’s Facebook page, was picked up by a local news affiliate and then rehashed by the New York Post. It’s also completely unsubstantiated and refuted by plain science. While telling her husband Justin how lucky she was to “find a random dollar,” Renee Parsons wrote on Facebook, she thought to “wipe off my hands bc I remembered him telling me not to pick up money off the ground as people have been putting it in fentanyl. As he began to somewhat lecture me It hit me like a ton of bricks. All of a sudden I felt it start in my shoulders and the feeling was quickly going down my body and it would not stop.” Parsons says she went numb, struggled to breathe and couldn’t stay awake, and that her husband drove “98mph in a 35, running every red light and crossing over curbs” to get her to a hospital — surely a greater threat to life and limb than picking money up off the ground at a McDonald’s.
A few curious things here. First is the power of suggestion: Parsons had her reaction only after her spouse scared her with the possibility that there was fentanyl on the bill. Second, the “symptoms” that she suffered — and that police have attributed to “casual tactile and respiratory contact with powder fentanyl,” including “shortness of breath, heart palpitations, fainting” — are not consistent with opioid toxicity, as actual doctors point out. Third, her account is only “corroborated” by a cop who showed up at the hospital to validate it without evidence and even speculated that the dollar could have been deliberately dropped there to harm or kill someone. “The family says the toxicology report doesn’t test for synthetic drugs, but they feel confident fentanyl or a similar drug was on the money,” WKRN concluded. Or, as Parsons insisted in her Facebook post: “Either way, this is absolutely real and sad.” Sure, whatever you say!
Hey, there’s WKRN debunking their earlier story without correcting or retracting it. Thanks. There’s only one place this kind of reporting on fabricated emergencies leads: to more hysteria, panic attacks and freakouts from people who think they’ve absorbed fentanyl through their skin or accidentally inhaled it. The irony is it’ll mostly be those who — like the cops — have a cavalier attitude toward masking and the risk of contracting COVID-19, an airborne deadly virus. And once they’ve survived that harrowing encounter with dust, they can try for a diagnosis of Havana syndrome. Why not? When you’re faking sick for attention, go big or go home.