Inside the Connecticut Forensic Science Laboratory, they are looking at drug detection considered so potentially potent, its lab examiners have naloxone on standby.
"Detecting fentanyl was not a big surprise to us it was just the manner in which it was found, Michael Rickenbach, deputy director of the chemical analysis section explained. "It was found laced on marijuana."
Rickenbach said fentanyl is one of the top five reported drugs brought in as evidence to the lab but this particular piece of evidence, connected with a recent overdose in Plymouth, is the first lab-confirmed case of fentanyl mixed with marijuana ever found in Connecticut and potentially across the country.
In the past four months, the Connecticut Department of Public Health reports there have been 39 cases where people needed naloxone and had to be revived after apparent opioid overdoses. The patients said they had only smoked marijuana.
"What we hope is that this will steer people away from that illegal market and bring them towards the legalized side of things," said Brian Foley, assistant to the Commissioner of the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection.
Foley told NBC Connecticut that narcotics dealers say adding fentanyl keeps them competitive with the growing legalized medical and commercial marijuana market.
"It’s so easy to get, add in the addiction factor and it just keeps people coming to that same dealer," Foley said.
Foley and Rickenbach say the increase is considered so dangerous, every marijuana sample now coming into the state lab will be reviewed even more thoroughly for fentanyl.
"In this business we try not to keep the blinders on we have to be open for almost anything," Rickenbach said.