Synthetic Cannabinoid and Mitragynine Exposure of Law Enforcement Agents During the Raid of an Illegal Laboratory — Nevada, 2014
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Synthetic Cannabinoid and Mitragynine Exposure of Law Enforcement Agents During the Raid of an Illegal Laboratory — Nevada, 2014

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  • Alternative Title:
    MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep
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    Synthetic cannabinoids (SCs), commonly known by the street name "Spice," are designer drugs of abuse that mimic the psychoactive effects of marijuana. Intentional SC use has resulted in multiple toxicities (1,2), but little is known about occupational SC exposure. After a federal agency's law enforcement personnel in Nevada reported irritability and feeling "high" after raiding illegal SC laboratories and processing seized SCs, a request for a health hazard evaluation was made by the agency to CDC's National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) in 2014 to evaluate agents' occupational SC exposures. After making the request for a health hazard evaluation, federal agents conducted a raid of an illegal SC laboratory, with assistance from local law enforcement and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) personnel and with NIOSH investigators observing from a distance. After the raid, agents collected and processed material evidence. NIOSH investigators tested agents' urine for SC levels before and after the raid and measured SCs in the air and on surfaces after the raid. DEA determined that AB-PINACA (an SC compound) and mitragynine (a plant material with opium-like effects, also known as "kratom") were present in the illegal laboratory. AB-PINACA, its metabolites, and mitragynine were not detected in agents' urine before the raid; however, one or more of these substances was found in the urine of six of nine agents after the raid and processing of the SC evidence. AB-PINACA was detected in one surface wipe sample from the SC laboratory; none was detected in the air in the laboratory or in the offices of the law enforcement agency where the materials were processed after the raid. No policies were in place regarding work practices and use of personal protective equipment (PPE) during raids and evidence processing. To protect agents from SC exposures, NIOSH recommended that the agency require agents to wear a minimum level of PPE (e.g., protective gloves and disposable clothing) and undergo training in PPE and in handling and storing of contaminated evidence from SC laboratory raids. Showers and locker rooms also need to be provided so that agents can reduce contamination and prevent take-home exposure.
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