Skip to main content

Denver surgery technician describes stealing Fentanyl. What is Fentanyl?

Use of already used needles carries a huge risk of infection with anything from HIV to Hepatitis.
Use of already used needles carries a huge risk of infection with anything from HIV to Hepatitis.

Kristen Diane Parker, who worked at Denver's Rose Medical Center and Colorado Springs' Audubon Surgery Center as a surgery technician and was arrested late last year for stealing Fentanyl injections to fuel her drug addiction, then refilling the needles with saline which were eventually administered to patients, described in an interview with Assistant U.S. Attorney Jaime Pena how she intended to refill new, clean needles with saline to replace the ones she used for herself, but became careless and ended up simply placing the used needles back in the cart she stole them from. This led to several thousand people becoming exposed to the incurable liver disease Hepatitis C. She is expected to be sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Fentanyl is a Schedule 2 controlled drug and is pharmacologically classified as an opioid analgesic and general anesthetic, meaning it can be used as a very powerful pain reliever (it is significantly more powerful than morphine) or as an anesthetic in combination with other anesthetics.  It is available in injection form, as a skin patch, a lozenge or a buccal tablet (one that is held against the inner cheek for absorption). A schedule 2 controlled substance is one with a high abuse risk, but which also has a safe and accepted medical use in the United States (as opposed to a schedule 1 controlled substance which has a high abuse risk and no acceptable medical use, such as heroin and PCP, or a schedule 3 controlled substance which is one with a lesser abuse risk than schedule 2 and has an acceptable medical use).

Fentanyl works by affecting the central nervous system (CNS) and depressing it, resulting in symptoms such as sleepiness and shallow and slow breathing. Overdosage can lead a person to stop breathing altogether, and this is the most common cause of death in opioid overdose, which is frequently the outcome of addiction.

For further reading of this event go to The Denver Channel's dedicated webpage.