The couple discovered the packages, which were marked with similar names and address to their own, Tuesday night, Feb. 12. They alerted the Clay County Sheriff’s Office, who later confirmed the powder contained inside them was 2.5 grams of fentanyl. Two milligrams of the highly potent opioid is a lethal dose for most people, according to the DEA.
Teresa Gilbertson, who opened one of the envelopes containing two packages of fentanyl, said it at first glance appeared to have her name and address on it. She was in the middle of opening a package when she noticed something strange: a plastic bag containing a white powder.
“I did not open the second bag, which is a godsend, but I really should not have opened up the first bag,” Gilbertson said.
The package also contained a note reading: “I love you, call me,” Gilbertson said.
Her husband, Roy, was worried about what could have happened if they were exposed to more of the powder. “If we had opened up that second package, we would have been contaminated and possibly died from it,” he said. “We were dumb and we were lucky, that is what it boils down to.”
Direct skin contact is a potential exposure route for fentanyl, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, though it is not likely to result in an overdose. Brief skin contact generally will not lead to toxic effects if the substance is immediately removed.
However, the CDC warns inhalation of fentanyl powders or aerosols, or contact with a break in the skin or a mucous membrane like the inner lip or inside your nose, can lead to rapid onset of symptoms. Significant exposure to the drug can slow or stop breathing.
Teresa and Roy Gilbertson say their experience serves as a cautionary tale for others. They are especially concerned about children and the elderly opening a package and touching the potent drug, possibly leading to exposure.
The Clay County Sheriff’s Office is now investigating the incident as a drug delivery case.
Sheriff Mark Empting warns against touching any unidentified powder or substance in the mail. “It could have turned out bad — we were lucky it did not,” he said. “We have people doing bad things and bringing innocent people into it.”
There has been a 750 percent increase in packages seized that contain opioids in the United States this past year, according to the U.S. Postal Service.