ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Forensic experts across the country are warning the public that the opioid crisis is real.
Chemists are identifying drugs taken in by police departments across the state. What they and others across the country have found is that the drug threat is unlike it’s ever been seen before.
“More people are dying of drug overdoses than ever in history. It’s the number one killer of people,” Ray Wickenheiser, American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors President, said.
Wickenheiser doesn’t hesitate to call this trend a crisis.
He’s witnessing it firsthand as the head of New York State Crime Labs.
“We see it on a daily basis and it’s a human tragedy.”
In just the last four years, they’ve seen a 6,000 percent increase in fentanyl cases, both pure fentanyl and mixed with other drugs.
Margaret Lafond is one of the chemists who figures out what’s in each sample.
“We identify what is different from the fentanyl compound or other controlled substance that we see,” Lafond said.
They typically see this type of packaging but these days they’re seeing drugs in various forms, even balloons, and they advise the public to look out for them.
“We’re seeing it in candies. Now we’re seeing it in interesting, very cute little packaging that might entice somebody to take it.”
With these new forms and mixtures, crime labs are having trouble keeping up.
“Huge increases in the crime lab mean that we’re not able to get that result as quickly as they need to get it,” Wickenheiser said.
To combat this and the crisis overall, Wickenheiser urged people to think before they touch or ingest what could be a lethal drug.
“It’s poison, it’s deadly, don’t take it, that would be our message.”
Experts say another problem is dealers are finding ways around the law by using uncontrolled substances, which is not illegal.