Opioids dangers force police to abandon drug field tests

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ST. LOUIS — The dangers of opioids are forcing police to change the way they test drugs found during traffic stops or arrests.

For decades, officers have put suspected drugs in liquid-filled vials. If the liquid turns a certain color, it’s supposed to confirm the presence of cocaine, heroin or other narcotics.

But some large law enforcement agencies have recently abandoned the routine tests out of concern that officers could be exposed to opioids that can be absorbed through the skin or inhaled. Even a minute amount of the most potent drugs can cause violent illness or death.

Police are instead sending suspected drugs to crime laboratories.

Field testing has been banned by the DEA, state police in Oregon, Arizona, Michigan and Missouri, and several big-city departments, including New York and Houston.

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