You were probably taught at a young age not to pick up just anything off the ground. But those of us who are more eco-conscious as adults may be inclined to toss trash we see on the side of the street—and sometimes we’re also tempted to pick up and pocket certain finds that seem valuable or interesting.
These instincts don’t generally land us in hot water, but police have issued a new warning about one of the more appealing things you might stumble on that could actually end up hurting you. Read on to find out what authorities are asking you to avoid picking up if it crosses your path.
Police warnings can be frightening but necessary, particularly when authorities are able to track trends in criminal activity. So far this year, police have warned the general public about different scams, like one that tricked drivers into sharing sensitive information when using parking meters. More dangerous risks are also prevalent, including those that put your health and safety at risk.
On May 30, the Boston Police Department warned bar patrons about an increase in drink-spiking activity. To stay safe, authorities advised always having drinks covered and never leaving them unattended, especially when heading to the bathroom. Drinks are spiked with drugs like Rohypnol, also known as “roofies,” GHB (gamma hydroxybutyrate), or ketamine, police said, all of which are generally colorless, tasteless, and odorless.
Now, police have issued another warning about how you could unknowingly come into contact with illicit drugs.
“Find a penny, pick it up, and all day long, you’ll have good luck” is an age-old saying that many of us have taken to heart. But police in Giles County, Tennessee issued a new warning about grabbing money from the ground—even if you think it’s your lucky day.
Authorities published the warning on Facebook, asking people not to pick folded money off of the ground, as it could contain fentanyl. So far, police in the area have received reports of folded dollar bills found on the floor of gas stations. Upon opening them, the unsuspecting person found a powdery white substance, and both times, the powder tested positive for both methamphetamine and fentanyl.
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), and is often abused and added to heroin. The addition of fentanyl and increased circulation has led to a large increase in fatalities, with deaths jumping from 2,666 in 2011 to 31,335 in 2018. Methamphetamine, on the other hand, is an addictive stimulant, and in 2017, approximately 15 percent of all overdoses were related to this drug category, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
“This is a very dangerous issue,” the Giles County Sheriff Department wrote, further asking that parents urge children not to pick up money they find on the ground. If they do find folded money somewhere like a playground or a business, children should use “great caution” and alert a parent or guardian before touching it.
The Giles County police included a photo of a penny and a small amount of white powder to illustrate the quantity of fentanyl that could be deadly. But while fentanyl is a lethal substance if abused, briefly touching or accidentally inhaling fentanyl will not be fatal, according to a Nov. 2021 study.
The research, published in the journal Health & Justice, was focused on training police officers about accidental contact with fentanyl. The study was initiated after misinformation was disseminated by the DEA in 2016, the study said, which led officers to believe that simply touching fentanyl could quickly kill them.
A similarly misleading message was put out by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in 2019, which study authors said had the potential to contribute to stress and burnout for police officers, also lowering their effectiveness in responding to overdose incidents. In reality, there are minimal risks associated with incidental fentanyl exposure, the study said, and when officers did report accidental exposure, their symptoms were more in line with a panic attack than an opioid overdose.
That being said, the general public should still exercise extreme caution in these instances and be aware of children who could stumble upon these substances by accident.
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