One Pill Kills

Increased fentanyl overdoses in the area makes it more likely a teen will be affected

Jordyn Rammer, Reporter

7 overdoses in LA. 

2 overdose deaths in Oregon. 

2 Ohio State students dead. 

An 11-month-old overdosed. 

What do all of these have in common? They all died after taking Fentanyl-laced pills.

Fentanyl may be a foreign object to most high school students. However, it’s here and killing people one pill at a time. 

Amanda Tennyson, Prevention Specialist at Vivent Health in Appleton, acknowledges that the possibility of fentanyl within reach of students is a stark possibility.

“It is here in our area. It is prevalent. It is a major reason for all the overdose deaths happening in our area.”

Last year, Winnebago County registered 8 “suspected or probable” overdose deaths within just nine days. 

In the 2021 Winnebago County Overdose Fatality Review, 28 of the 41 overdose deaths were linked to fentanyl. In addition, the overdose deaths rose from 37 in 2020 to 41 in 2021.

Fentanyl is in the Oshkosh Community, and therefore could possibly affect the lives of teens. 

So what exactly is Fentanyl?

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Fentanyl is a strong synthetic opioid that clinical settings have been using for decades. The drug is often described as 80-100 times stronger than morphine, and about 50 times stronger than heroin.

One problem with combating fentanyl stems from how it’s produced. It’s partly being manufactured in China, but due to their strict government, they can only complete half of the process. It’s then being sent to Mexico where they finish the production. Eventually it comes over the border, into Southern California.

As Fentanyl moves through the street market, it will come in the form of a white, gray, or tan powder. This can then be injected, smoked, snorted or mixed with a variety of other drugs.. 

“It’s in everything, we’re getting reports back now that it’s now in marijuana. I had a call from the Emergency Room last weekend, somebody was vaping on Delta-8, which is unregulated and… there was Fentanyl in it,” says Tennyson.

Because it can come in so many forms, fentanyl is hard to detect. There’s no smell, taste, or form. Although it’s common to find Fentanyl laced in illegal opioids such as heroin and methamphetamine; it’s now being laced in seemingly common drugs like Adderall and prescription painkillers. Adults – ages 25 to 34 according to the 2021 Overdose Fatality Review –  are dying after innocently asking a friend for Tylenol, Adderall, and other everyday drugs. As little as 2 grains of salt worth of fentanyl is enough to kill someone.

Besides it being laced into common drugs often prescribed to teens such as Adderall, Codeine, and Xanax. It now seems its being marketed to teens by making them look like colorful candy.

“Rainbow fentanyl – fentanyl pills and powder that come in a variety of bright colors, shapes, and sizes – is a deliberate effort by drug traffickers to drive addiction among kids and young adults,” said Drug Enforcement Administration administrator Anne Milgram. 

Again, the main problem revolves around the fact that fentanyl can take many forms and can be mixed with common drugs that may make a person feel comfortable with what they’re taking. This causes a Trojan Horse type of situation that leads to overdose deaths just because the user does not know it contains fentanyl.

“Drugs may contain deadly levels of fentanyl, and you wouldn’t be able to see it, taste it, or smell it. It is nearly impossible to tell if drugs have been laced with fentanyl unless you test your drugs with fentanyl test strips,” states the Center for Disease Control’s article “Fentanyl Facts.” 

While test strips are one of the most effective ways to detect Fentanyl, 19 states have banned their use because the state lawmakers think people will use the strips to find and purposely use fentanyl. 

“Fentanyl test strips are dipped into drug residue dissolved in water. Within minutes, a person can know whether the drug contains fentanyl,” says the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. 

In Wisconsin, test strips are legal and are being distributed for free. Locally, interested people should contact the Winnebago County Health Department at 112 Otter Avenue. 

However, testing strips remain fallible.

“There’s over 20 different types of Fentanyl,” says Tennyson. “The strips that we distribute will test for about six different types, including Carfentanil which is a tranquilizer that the vets use for animals.”

Despite the limitations of the strips, it is currently the best way to prevent unintentional overdoses from Fentanyl as it typically represents an accidental use. Obviously, the best way to protect yourself is to say no to drugs altogether. 

If you or someone you love is struggling with drug addiction, call one of the hotlines below:

  • National Drug Helpline: 1-844-289-0879
  • Partnership for Drug-Free Kids: 1-855-378-4373
  • The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): 1-800-622-HELP(4357)