Dangerous fentanyl epidemic rises across the nation

Tess Petrillo, News Editor
Originally published October 25, 2019

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that can be used as a surgical anesthetic, or pain medication for advanced cancer patients. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it is 50-100 times more powerful than morphine and 10 ten times more powerful than heroin. 

Fentanyl has recently been produced and distributed illegally in the form of powders, pills, on blotter paper and even in nasal sprays or eye droppers.

Because of its potency, a very small amount of fentanyl can produce a high. It can be mixed or cut with other drugs in order to enhance the high while also lowering the price of the original drug. 

The low cost of the enhanced drugs are appealing to users, not necessarily addicts, but anyone who wants to use the drug. When these people purchase the cocaine, pills, etc. they are most often unaware that it is laced with fentanyl.

Unlike the medical industry, when fentanyl is mixed with another drug there are no measurements, meaning that any amount of the drug could be laced with any amount of fentanyl. 

When users unknowingly take a fentanyl laced drug, it often results in fentanyl poisoning. However, since they weren’t aware of the presence of fentanyl it is not considered an overdose.

Math teacher Jan Drabek had a student who passed away due to fentanyl poisoning recently. After the passing of the student Drabek attempted to educate himself on the dangers of fentanyl.

“I started reading the book ‘Fentanyl Incorporated,’ I tried to educate myself about what was going on,” Drabek said.

Drabek also recommended communication between administration to students across the district. 

“When there’s this threatening danger, which is what this fentanyl situation is, I think there needs to be some organization within the school district that can move quickly to address it. I want information to be communicated out quickly,” Drabek said. 

In addition to communication and education in order to prevent misuse of the drug, medical products are also available to counter the effects of the drug. 

NARCAN brand naloxone is a product that can reverse overdoses of opioids like fentanyl. Naloxone can be bought in the form of a nasal spray, over the counter, by anyone in Washington state. 

Companies have also emerged with products that can be used to test a drug before taking it to see if it is laced with fentanyl. The non-profit company DanceSafe offers packets of fentanyl testing strips as well as information about fentanyl on their website http://dancesafe.org