Hospitality Exposure: Synthetic Opioid Production and Use


The production of Methamphetamines and the processing of Opioids are becoming more and more prevalent in the Hospitality industry.  Easy access, privacy and the ability to manufacture or package drugs quickly, has lead to increased exposure to toxic chemicals for hotel workers and guests.

The purpose of this article is to review the impact of the opioid crisis, specifically synthetic opioids such as fentanyl and its analogues on the environmental health and safety of facilities in the hospitality industry, and how to appropriately manage them.

Synthetic Opioids & Their Potency

Synthetic opioids, such as non-pharmaceutical fentanyl, are extremely potent compared to traditional opioids. Depending on administration, fentanyl is approximately 50-100 times more potent than heroin. With a chemical structure similar to fentanyl, carfentanil, has a quantitative potency approximately 10,000 times that of morphine. To get a sense of the extreme potency of fentanyl and its close relatives, the photo below displays the varying lethal doses of heroin, fentanyl, and carfentanil.

Hospitality Exposure: Synthetic Opioid Production and Use

New Hampshire Forensic Lab

Why the Major Concern for the Hospitality Industry?

Synthetic opioids can be absorbed into the body via inhalation, skin contact, or ingestion. The high potency of these drugs combined with the many possibilities of exposure increases the risks to this hazard.

As of today, the DEA has yet to report on any illicit synthetic opioid production in the US, yet many drug distributers have set up “milling” operations (a term used to describe transforming the raw drugs into any one of its consumable forms). Milling operations pose a high risk for hotel and motel properties due to their privacy and accessibility.

The potency of synthetic fentanyl, for example, is so strong that even the smallest trace amounts pose environmental hazards. In some cases, synthetic opioid use could arguably pose an even greater environmental risk because of the increased difficultly for visual detection of the hazard.

How to Mitigate Synthetic Opioid Production & Use in Your Facilities

Know the warning signs

Train all employees to recognize the signs of illicit drug use, production, and associated paraphernalia. Employees should never attempt to confront a guest or investigate a potentially contaminated room. If illicit drug use or operations are suspected, staff should immediately report the situation to the local authorities.

Limit Exposure

Once a potential risk has been identified, only trained first responders should be granted access to the potentially contaminated room. Treat all unknown drug activity/overdoses as though contamination is present until further information can be confirmed by responding authorities.

Get the Facts

Initial response by law enforcement may be limited to a quick assessment and evidence collection. Unfortunately, many police toxicology labs can take weeks or even months to confirm the presence of a specific drug and only assess agents that are easily seen and collected.

Additionally, although environmental hazards may be present, a response incident may not warrant an in-depth investigation by law enforcementFor this reason, it is important that staff obtain important, relevant information from experienced law enforcement professionals while they are onsite in order to properly assess the risk level of environmental contamination.

FACS recommends employees obtain the following information from responding officers: incident/case number, responding officers name(s), paraphernalia or suspicious items discovered, suspected drug(s) involved (if applicable), and cause of death (if applicable).

It should be noted that while experienced first responders are typically the primary source for information when assessing contamination risks, they are not liable or qualified to determine environmental contamination issues. It is the responsibility of the property owner to ensure their property is safe for occupants and workers.

For assistance managing liability related to drug exposure assessment and control, contact us or call FACS at (616) 275-0002 to speak with a leading expert. If you’re interested in learning more about environmental health concerns and signs of use from synthetic opioids, honey butane, or methamphetamine, contact us & we’ll send you free information sheets.