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Cape Cod nonprofit looks to debunk myths surrounding fentanyl exposure

Courtesy AIDS Support Group of Cape Cod

Fentanyl has replaced heroin as the main illicit opioid being used on Cape Cod. A local nonprofit is working to debunk some myths about the risks of fentanyl exposure.

The AIDS Support Group of Cape Cod says one misconception surrounding fentanyl is that simply touching it can lead to an overdose.

Eliza Morrison is the group’s Director of Harm Reduction Services. She said that fentanyl is poorly absorbed through the skin.

“So, the risk of — if you touch fentanyl with your hands, if it gets on your arm, if it gets on your skin — the risk of you potentially overdosing is very, very low — if not zero," she said.

Morrison added there is potential risk if someone has fentanyl on their hands and then touches their mouth.

She said the fear of fentanyl exposure can sometimes prevent people from responding to an overdose.

She said stigma can affect people who use substances.

“Stigma can kill people. Fear of interacting with people who are actively using substances, or (fear of) responding to an overdose, literally kills people. So, getting that education out there, getting that Narcan out there, is just so important," she said.

This week, China’s leader Xi Jinping agreed to take action to limit the flow of precursor ingredients that are used to make fentanyl — several of which come from China.

The AIDS Support Group of Cape Cod’s CEO Dan Gates supported the announcement.

He said the news is a positive step, but it’s also important to look at how communities respond on a local scale.

“If you were able to, tomorrow, eliminate all fentanyl from the region, there’d be a lot of people who are experiencing severe addiction to a substance that would need support and help. So, we really have to work on that level as well.”

The AIDS Support Group of Cape Cod provides access to fentanyl test strips and free Narcan, the treatment that can be used to reverse an opioid overdose.

Brian Engles is an author, a Cape Cod local, and a producer for Morning Edition.