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Fentanyl Facts: What Every Teen Should Know About This Dangerous Opioid

Fentanyl Facts for Teens: 

In today's culture, it is not uncommon site to see or hear of teenagers regularly engaging in the consumption of illicit drugs. Aside from the already complex moral, legal, and health troubles associated with these activities, there is now an additional hidden danger. This hidden danger comes from the inclusion of fentanyl into the already existing drug culture and structure being utilized by teens and others. Fentanyl is particularly dangerous and is 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine (Texas HHS, 2024). 
This can lead to higher levels of overdose, death, and with fentanyl specifically, death by poisoning. Below are several articles that speak to this danger and how it has been impacting teenagers in our society. 

Study: Teen OD deaths driven by counterfeits containing fentanyl (Knopf, 2024) 

There are remarkably higher levels of teen overdose incidence happening today than in previous generations. This has been attributed to fentanyl poisoning or when an individual accidentally takes fentanyl when they intend to take prescription medications like benzodiazepine, Percocet, and others. From August 2019 until 2022, the number of fatal teen overdoses has doubled. This increase in fatalities corresponds with findings that 75% of all illicit pills have been found to contain fentanyl. 
Additional research has found that from 2010 to 2021, mortality rates from adolescent drug use went from 2.4 per 100,000 to 4.57 per 100,000 (Knopf, 2022). 

Risk Factors for Teens and the Accidental Use of Fentanyl (Oether & Bultas, 2024) 

Several risk factors exist for pre-teen and adolescent student opioid overdose and death. These risk factors include biological risks, familial risks, mental and behavioral health problems, and lack of education regarding the dangers of prescription drug misuse. 
Pre-teen and adolescent students have neurobiological vulnerabilities, such as impulsivity and altered contextualization of potential drug risks, making them more susceptible to opioid overdose and death. 

The rise of fentanyl-related deaths in the US from 2010-2021 (Friedman & Shover, 2023) 

The percentage of US overdose deaths involving both fentanyl and stimulants increased from 0.6% (n = 235) in 2010 to 32.3% (34 429) in 2021, with the sharpest rise starting in 2015. In 2010, fentanyl was most commonly found alongside prescription opioids, benzodiazepines, and alcohol. In the Northeast, this shifted to heroin-fentanyl co-involvement by 2021, and nearly universally to cocaine-fentanyl co-involvement by 2021. In the West, and in the majority of states in the South and Midwest, methamphetamine-fentanyl co-involvement dominated by 2021. The proportion of stimulant involvement in fentanyl-involved overdose deaths rose in virtually every state from 2015 to 2021. Intersectional group analysis reveals particularly high rates for older Black and African American individuals living in the Western US. 

What can be done to prevent these deaths caused by fentanyl? 

Do not use drugs alone: Having others nearby could save you from an overdose by allowing them to contact emergency services or administer life-saving aid. 
Find out how and when to use Naloxone: Naloxone or NARCAN is a powerful tool in stopping individuals from experiencing a fatal overdose. Naloxone, commonly known as NARCAN, is a medication used to rapidly reverse opioid overdose by blocking the effects of opioids in the brain.
Learn when to call emergency services: If you or a friend is experiencing an overdose, contact emergency services. It could very well be the difference between life and death. 

Additional sources of information: 

Drug Collection Sites by Zip Code: https://www.deaa.gov/takebackday
CDC Educational Campaigns:https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2021/p1027-Preventing-Drug-Overdose-Deaths.html Naloxone in Schools Toolkit: https://safesupportivelearning.ed.gov/resources/naloxone-schools-toolkit
Educational Resources for Schools: Overdose https://stopoverdose.org/for-professionals/schools-overdose-education-naloxone/ NASN Drug Abuse Resources: https://www.nasn.org/nasn-resources/resources-by-topic/drugs-abuse
Facts About Fake Pills: https://www.dea.gov/onepill
Facts About Fentanyl Handout: https://www.cdc.gov/stopoverdose/fentanyl/pdf/Fentanyl_Fact_Sheet_508c.pdf 


Knopf, A. (2024). Study: Teen OD deaths driven by counterfeits containing fentanyl. The Brown University Child & Adolescent Behavior Letter. http://doi.org/10.1377/hlthaff.2023.00777 
Knopf, A. (2022). Illicit fentanyl cited huge increase in teen OD deaths. The Brown University Child & Adolescent Psychopharmacology Update.
Health and Human Services of Texas. (2024). Fentanyl One Pill Kills. Texas Health and Human Services.https://www.hhs.texas.gov/services/mental-health-substance-use/mental-health-substance-use-resources/fentanyl-one-pill- 
Oether, S., & Bultas, M. (2024). Deaths from drug overdoses what school nurses need to know. NASN Schol Nurse. https://doi-org.offcampus.lib.washington.edu/10.1177/1942602X231172428 
Friedman, J., & Shover, C. (2022). Charting the fourth wave: Geographic, temporal, race/ethnicity and demographic trends in polysubstance fentanyl overdose deaths in the United States, 2010–2021. Addiction SSA.