MONTGOMERY CO., AL (WSFA) - Opioids are now the leading cause of death for people 50-years-old and younger, and the lethal effects are also posing a deadly threat to law enforcement. The deadly drug is on the scene in Montgomery and it's called fentanyl.
It looks like heroin, but with a simple touch or inhalation, the drug becomes immediately lethal.
"It can occur within seconds of exposure," Montgomery County District Attorney Daryl Bailey stated. "Several grains the size of sand can kill a police officer if inhaled or absorbed through the skin."
Fentanyl is cheaper than heroin and it's easier to obtain. Officers now find that most heroin is laced with fentanyl and simply seizing drugs in the field or patting down a suspect carrying fentanyl can prove deadly.
"Fentanyl is an unprecedented threat to our law enforcement officers," Bailey warned.
Naloxone is an opioid antidote and a dose immediately reverses the lethal effects of fentanyl. The problem: it's expensive.
Bailey has secured a donation for four naloxone kits for the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office, valued at upwards of $15,000.
"We cannot put a price tag on this antidote if it saves one of our officers," Bailey explained.
Sheriff Derrick Cunningham said the expense is difficult to work into the budget and added Tuesday's donation took a huge weight off his shoulders.
"Words can't express how I feel right now," Cunningham said. "Every day I worry about those guys and girls when they go out on the streets."
The doses come in the form of a nasal spray. More than 70 deputies have been trained to use this antidote.
"The simplicity of this will make it so beneficial," explained Chief Deputy Kevin Murphy.
Canine officers, trained to sniff out drugs, are often the first exposed to fentanyl. Tuesday, Bailey confirmed the naloxone doses are also effective for dogs on the force.