A Diverse Coalition of Nonprofits, Corporations, Government Agencies and Schools come together to raise awareness about fentanyl in fake pills and street drugs
WASHINGTON, April 19, 2022 /PRNewswire/ -- A broad coalition of nonprofit organizations, major corporations, government agencies and schools – including Google, Snap, Meta, the Ad Council, Shatterproof and CADCA – have come together to launch the first ever National Fentanyl Awareness Day on May 10, 2022. The activation is designed to raise awareness about illicit fentanyl in fake pills and street drugs. Illegally made fentanyl is the primary driver of the recent increase in overdose deaths, and fentanyl involved deaths are fastest growing among 14- to 23-year-olds.
National Fentanyl Awareness Day is supported by an Advisory Council comprised of experts in drug policy, public health, harm reduction, internet safety and neuroscience. This breadth of expertise is indicative of the urgency that all stakeholders share about the need to alert the public to the unprecedented increase in drug related deaths driven by fentanyl, and to initiate a national conversation about solutions.
In announcing National Fentanyl Awareness Day, several National Fentanyl Awareness Day Advisory Council members and partners released statements:
Jennifer Stout, VP of Global Public Policy at Snap, Inc., stated: "As the fentanyl epidemic has surged during the pandemic, we have worked tirelessly with parents, expert organizations, like Song for Charlie, and law enforcement to better understand how we can fight this national crisis. We are grateful to be a founding partner of National Fentanyl Awareness Day to help educate youth and families about the deadly risks associated with counterfeit pills laced with fentanyl."
Former Ambassador to Mexico, Christopher Landau, states: "Illicit fentanyl is the ideal raw material for drug traffickers - potent, profitable, and difficult to detect. This makes controlling the supply uniquely challenging, which means demand reduction and public awareness are critical pieces of our national response."
Ryan Marino, MD Medical Toxicologist states: "Fentanyl has permeated the street drug supply, and not because of any true want for it - most people do not start out seeking fentanyl. Now, it is replacing heroin and even being pressed into a wide range of pills without people knowing. When people don't know what they're getting, or how much, their risk of overdose is much higher. So, it is more important than ever that people who use drugs understand that fentanyl could potentially be in almost any street drug they buy."
Director and Global Head of YouTube Health, Garth Graham MD, states: "The prevalence of fentanyl in street drugs has been increasing for years, drastically raising the possibility of accidental overdose for even casual drug users. Quite simply, these drugs are becoming more dangerous. National Fentanyl Awareness Day is a moment to educate Americans about the high prevalence of fentanyl in drugs to help them understand the enormity of the risk from even one pill."
Avra Siegel, Head of US Policy Programs, Meta, states: "Raising awareness about the harms of fentanyl is key to preventing harm and reducing the stigma of substance misuse. We at Meta are proud to partner with expert organizations on this issue and amplify National Fentanyl Awareness Day across our platforms."
CEO of RADical Hope, Liz Feld, states: "An alarming number of fentanyl poisoning deaths occur when young people turn to the internet or the street to get prescription pills. Self-medication is a high-risk behavior in the age of fentanyl."
Bridget Lattimer, Song for Charlie Board Member, stated: "My boyfriend died in his fraternity house after taking a fake Percocet. High school and college kids are comfortable taking and sharing pills to study or chill out. This is a real opportunity for universities, colleges, fraternities, and sororities to warn their communities about these fake pills, and about fentanyl in cocaine."
THE CALL TO ACTION The call to action for National Fentanyl Awareness Day is simple: spread the word on social media. Supporters can promote the campaign hashtag #NationalFentanylAwarenessDay and visit the Day's website to find shareable content, a partner toolkit, and more information.
The date for the day was purposely set during Mental Health Awareness Month to amplify the warning message about self-medication at a time when counterfeit pills
have flooded the online and street drug markets. The goal is to leverage as many organizations and communication channels as possible, including high schools and colleges, to reach the most vulnerable demographics.
DECEIT DRIVES FENTANYL DEATHS An alarming practice has taken over the illicit drug business – cutting fentanyl into other substances without the consumer's knowledge or consent. Virtually the entire heroin supply contains some amount of illicit fentanyl, which is also being detected in cocaine. Drug traffickers are mass-producing counterfeit prescription pills like oxycodone, Percocet and Xanax and falsely marketing them to the public. In fact, the number of Law Enforcement-seized counterfeit pills made with fentanyl has increased by 502% since 2019, according to a recently released NIDA study. According to the Drug Enforcement Agency ("DEA"), four out of every ten pills with illicit fentanyl tested in their labs contain a potentially lethal dose of the potent opioid.
According to CDC provisional data, there will be 70,000 deaths involving illicit fentanyl in the twelve-month period ending November 2021. Data show that fentanyl was involved in more deaths of Americans under 50 than any cause of death, including heart disease, cancer, suicide, homicide, other accidents, and illnesses.
DISPROPORTIONATE IMPACT ON YOUTH For the 12-month period ended in September 2021, drug deaths grew fastest among people aged 19 and under, increasing by 26%. Illicit fentanyl was involved in 76% of drug deaths for this age group. In the 15-24 age cohort, there were 7,500 drug related deaths during this period and 6,000 of them (80%) involved fentanyl.
For just high school ages 14-18, fentanyl involved deaths grew by a stunning +169% in 2020, according to CDC data. This is over three times the national average rate of +55% and at least twice the rate of all other age groups during that same period.
Recent Morning Consult research points to a significant knowledge gap among teens. It found that only about a third of high school students know what fentanyl is, and 73% of them do not know about fentanyl in fake pills. 35% of respondents did not know enough about fentanyl to rate its danger.
UNITING AROUND AWARENESS Fentanyl and fakery have turned the modern drug landscape into a minefield where one false move can result in death. Anyone who uses drugs – whether experimenting for the first time, partying on the weekend, or suffering from substance use disorder – is at risk of overdose or poisoning.
Knowledge is key. On May 10, the National Fentanyl Awareness Day virtual event will spread potentially lifesaving information about illicit fentanyl hidden in fake pills and street drugs – widely and quickly – to the American public.