The troubling presence of misleading or downright propagandizing claims of exposure-based fentanyl incidents remains a cause of concern for advocates of common sense drug education, with the latest development in this ongoing issue centering on a story out of the Nashville area.
As you’ve probably seen floating around social media in recent days, per WKRN, a woman—identified as Renee Parsons—alleges she “passed out” after picking up a $1 bill off the ground while in the area. The woman’s husband, Justin, is quoted in the report as saying his wife “certainly was unconscious” and looked “very pale” after the alleged dollar grabbing. It’s further alleged that the woman began to have difficulty breathing, ultimately resulting in a hospital visit.
Of note in the report is that the Kentucky couple conceded that a toxicology report “doesn’t test for synthetic drugs,” but that they—as it’s worded in the widely aggregated piece—“feel confident fentanyl or a similar drug” was on the bill in question. As is always the case with such claims, medical experts have since spoken out in protest of this aspect of the claim, including Dr. Rebecca Donald of the Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
“I think it is really unlikely the substance this lady got into her system is fentanyl based on the symptoms she had,” Dr. Donald, described as an expert on the synthetic opioid, told KKTV this week.
On Twitter, Ryan Marino, MD—a frequently vocal proponent of identifying and correcting fentanyl-related misinformation—also criticized the report.
“Y’all should be ashamed,” Marino said. “Her drug test was negative. You’re giving people panic attacks with these unresearched, unsubstantiated reports that you could easily debunk with a cursory google search (you can’t touch fentanyl and overdose, none of the reported symptoms are consistent).”
Fentanyl, though indeed potentially very dangerous when unknowingly ingested, has long been the source of improbable exposure-focused claims, often from police. Earlier this year, JEMS—i.e. the Journal of Emergency Medical Services—shared a detailed breakdown of why health officials should “be wary” of such claims.
In short, always do your own research, particularly when it comes to the propaganda-fueled discourse surrounding drugs in the U.S.