The couple discovered the packages, which were marked with the same names and addressable, Tuesday, February 12th. They warned the Clay County Sheriff's Office, which later confirmed that the powder in it contained 2.5 grams of fentanyl. Two milligrams of the very potent opioid is a lethal dose for most people, according to the DEA.
Teresa Gilbertson, who opened one of the envelopes with two packages of fentanyl, said that at first sight it looked like her name and address were on it. She was about to open a package when she saw something strange: a plastic bag with a white powder.
"I did not open the second bag, which is a godsend, but I should not have opened the first bag," Gilbertson said.
The package also included a comment: "I love you, call me," Gilbertson said.
Her husband, Roy, was worried about what could have happened if they had been exposed to more powder. "If we had opened that second package, we would have become infected and possibly died," he said. "We were stupid and we were lucky, that's what it comes down to."
Direct skin contact is a potential route of exposure to fentanyl, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, although it is unlikely to lead to an overdose. Short-term skin contact does not generally lead to toxic effects if the substance is removed immediately.
However, the CDC warns against the inhalation of fentanyl powders or aerosols, or contact with a break in the skin or a mucous membrane such as the inner lip or in your nose, can lead to a rapid onset of symptoms. Significant exposure to the drug may slow or stop breathing.
Teresa and Roy Gilbertson say that their experience serves as a warning story for others. They are especially concerned about the fact that children and the elderly open a package and touch the powerful medicine, 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 unidentified powder or other substances in the mail. "It could have been bad – we were lucky that it did not happen," he said. "We have people who do bad things and bring in innocent people."
There is an increase of 750 percent of seized packets containing opioids in the United States last year, according to U.S. Pat. Postal Service.