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Illicit fentanyl and its dangers, while well-documented by health professionals and law enforcement, are largely unknown to the general population and even more so to its most vulnerable population: youth and young adults. According to the CDC, fentanyl is involved in more deaths of Americans under 50 than any other cause of death, including heart disease, cancer, and all other accidents. Among teenagers, overdose deaths linked to synthetic opioids like fentanyl tripled in the past two years, yet 73% have never heard of fake prescription pills being made with fentanyl.


Fentanyl is a potent synthetic opioid. 

  • POTENT: Up 50x stronger than heroin and 100x stronger than morphine.
    A few grains of sand worth can be lethal.

  • SYNTHETIC: Not plant-based. Made in a lab. 

  • OPIOID: Pain reliever like oxycodone, morphine and heroin.

 Fentanyl (FEN-ta-nyl); rhymes with PILL


There are two types of fentanyl: medical grade (prescribed by a doctor) and illegally made (illicit).


This is a national public health crisis. People, especially young people, are ingesting illegally manufactured fentanyl without knowing it and dying at alarming rates as a result.


Fentanyl is very cheap and extremely addictive. Drug dealers are dangerously mixing illicit fentanyl w​​ith, and disguising it as, other common drugs like oxy, percocet and xanax to increase profits. This process is not regulated and does not undergo any kind of quality control. Drug users have no way of knowing what they are getting in illegally-purchased drugs, and as little as two milligrams of fentanyl (two grains of sand) can kill a person.


Fentanyl is everywhere: an estimated 250-500 million pills made with fentanyl are in circulation in the U.S. at any time. This doesn’t even account for powder drugs made with fentanyl such as cocaine, MDMA (molly/ecstasy), or heroin.


The practice of cutting drugs with fentanyl is relatively new, so public awareness is low. Educating the public about this crisis is the first step to reversing the tragic outcomes.



Know the facts about fentanyl and share them with your friends:

  • Fentanyl is often found in non-pharmaceutical  made pills that look like, and are sold as, oxy, percocet, xanax, vicodin, cocaine and more. 

  • Fentanyl is extremely potent. As little as two milligrams of fentanyl, an amount equal to two grains of sand, can kill a person.

  • Fentanyl is involved in more deaths of Americans under 50 than any other cause of death, including heart disease, cancer, and all other accidents.

  • Any “prescription” pill you don’t directly get from a pharmacy, or any powder form drugs purchased from a friend/drug dealer, may contain a lethal dose of fentanyl. Real prescription drugs are not available on Instagram or Snapchat. These drugs are not regulated.


If you're considering drug use, exercise caution:

  • Assume it’s fentanyl: any pill or powder drug not prescribed by a doctor could be poisoned with fentanyl. You don’t need to take the full pill for it to be lethal; there are documented deaths after ingesting just one half of a pill.

  • Test your product: Some cities and states are making test strips available so you can see if your drugs contain fentanyl. Caution: There is no such thing as a pill that has been tested for fentanyl, since the test requires that you fully dissolve each and every entire pill in water.  Test strips also do not test for every fentanyl analog.

  • Carry naloxone: Some cities and states are making naloxone available. Find naloxone near you and get trained to administer it.

  • Know the signs of an overdose: Loss of consciousness, unresponsiveness, irregular breathing, and inability to speak are a few of the signs to look out for.

  • Be prepared to call for help: If you witness someone experiencing the symptoms of an overdose, call 911 and request emergency medical services. 47 states and D.C. have enacted Good Samaritan laws, which provide immunity to those who call emergency services when experiencing or witnessing an overdose.


If you are a parent or educator, don’t avoid the topic:

  • Youth are dying from lack of information about this. There is a significant knowledge gap in youth about fentanyl in drugs. 35% of youth ages 13-17 say they don't know enough about fentanyl and its rate of danger, and 73% have never heard of fentanyl in counterfeit pills.

  • Mental health is a key factor: 86% of youth 13-17 are overwhelmed and 79% say anxiety and stress is a common reason to misuse medication. Learn how to notice symptoms and support young people struggling with mental health challenges.

  • Start the conversation in the classroom: Beaverton, Oregon’s school district has developed free lesson plans for middle school and high school students available for use here.

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