Episode 10 of the Drug Season series of the Just Science podcasts consists of an interview with Bruce Houlihan, the chair of the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors' (ASCLD's) Opioid Taskforce Committee, in which he discusses the management of seized drugs in labs and why post-mortem findings, research, and collaborations are current concerns regarding laboratory safety.
Houlihan is the Director of the Orange County Laboratory (California). He discusses his lab's experience and practices in processing potentially dangerous drugs that have been seized. Of particular concern for the Orange County laboratory is an increase in the number of cases that involve fentanyl, which can cause respiratory failure from exposure to even small amounts. Fentanyl effects come through ingestion, inhalation, or absorption through the skin or eyes. Houlihan notes the importance of a lab having access to data from medical examiners and law enforcement personnel on deaths or near-deaths that involve various drugs, including fentanyl. This assists lab personnel in anticipating the likelihood of particular drugs coming into the lab for identification. Accessibility of naxalone and a protocol for its use in the event of an overdose is also recommended.