Experts Cry Foul Over Sheriff Dept.'s Fentanyl Overdose Video

A PSA from the San Diego County Sheriff's Department purportedly showing a deputy’s overdose from fentanyl exposure has been called into question by numerous medical experts, causing tremendous embarrassment for the department.

The video shows Deputy David Faiivae approaching a substance from a suspect’s car that has tested positive for the powerful drug. His colleague tells him he has gotten “too close” to the substance. At that point, Faiivae drops to the ground and struggles to breathe. His colleague pulls out the overdose reversal drug Narcan and administers it to him on the scene.

Faiivae says he almost died. Medical experts say that makes no scientific sense.

"We have a lot of scientific evidence and a good knowledge of chemical laws and the way that these drugs work that says this is impossible," Ryan Marino, medical director for toxicology and addiction at University Hospitals in Cleveland, told NBC News.

Despite the urban legend, "you can't just touch fentanyl and overdose," he said. "It doesn't just get into the air and make people overdose."

Peer-reviewed research conducted by academics from the University of California, San Diego and North Carolina's nonprofit RTI (Research Triangle International) earlier this summer concluded there are no confirmed cases of a first responder overdosing on fentanyl through touch.

Marino also said Faiivae’s pupils, skin color, and body posture in the video are inconsistent with a Fentanyl overdose.

Sheriff Bill Gore admitted this week that a doctor never diagnosed Faiivae’s alleged overdose. Sheriff Gore did.

“If we were misinformed, so be it. We are trying to correct (it),” Gore told the San Diego Tribune.

It’s possible Faiivae was suffering from the so-called “nocebo” effect in which an individual experiences a negative outcome due to the belief that they have come in contact with a toxic substance.

An online petition organized by toxicology expert Dr. Ryan Marino and clinical assistant professor Lucas Hill is calling on news organizations to correct their initial reporting on the sheriff department’s video. The petition, which calls the video “dangerous misinformation,” has been signed by hundreds of pharmacology experts.


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