HOPKINTON — Police are warning residents that a substance seized in a traffic stop last week, and believed to be cocaine, tested positive only for fentanyl.
"We know that it contains fentanyl, and we know that it is dangerous. We don't know at this time what level of purity the substance may contain," said Hopkinton Police Capt. Mark Carrier.
The police confiscated 7.4 grams of the white powdery substance during a traffic stop Aug. 2 on Ashaway Road. A secure field test of the substance the next day was negative for cocaine or other drugs and indicated only that the substance was fentanyl.
Carrier said that while police do not condone the use of any illicit drugs, the department wants the public to be aware of the dangers associated with this substance. People who use it believing it is cocaine are "really rolling the dice" and could be at greater risk for overdose or death, he said.
According to a police report, the drug was seized from Anderson Mante, 30, of Centrall Falls, around 1:30 a.m. He had been stopped for speeding and headlight and taillight violations. The patrol officer smelled marijuana and Mante said he had smoked a blunt in the car earlier in the day.
The police said Mante handed over the remnant of the blunt and indicated that "other people use this car, too." The police found an Ice Breaker Mints container beneath the passenger seat containing 14 bags of the white powder. A bag containing a small amount of a brown substance was also found in the trunk, the police said.
Mante, initially held without bond, was released after arraignment Wednesday in Fourth Division District Court.
Carrier said that because of concerns about fentanyl exposure, the department does not allow the third-shift staff to field test drugs. Any field testing is done during the day with the officer wearing full protective gear, including a breathing mask. The testing is done in an observation room with another officer watching from outside to assure a fast response if anything should go wrong.
Carrier said he tested the powder on Saturday morning, believing he would find it to be cocaine or possibly cocaine mixed with fentanyl. It wasn't. If the substance proves to be pure fentanyl, Carrier said, inhalation of even a small amount could be deadly. The substance has since been sent to the state laboratories for further analysis.
"In all my years, I've never had a case quite like this," he said. "This is the first time we've seen something come up completely negative for common drugs and still test positive for fentanyl."