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Thursday, May 23, 2024 at 12:10 AM
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The Lethal Lure: The dangers of teenagers using substances containing fentanyl

HUNTER DWORACZYK [email protected]

GUEST COLUMNIST | Brandon Enos

The Lethal Lure: The dangers of teenagers using substances containing fentanyl

For most of us, our teenage years were a time of exploration, curiosity and self-discovery. Unfortunately, these formative years are also filled with risk-taking, such as experimenting with drugs. One of the most alarming trends in recent years is the sharp increase in unknown substances, many of which are laced with the life-ending drug, fentanyl.

The Fentanyl Epidemic

Fentanyl, a potent synthetic opioid, is about 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. The drug is used medically for pain management, particularly in severe cases.

It has recently become misused and is the cause of surging numbers of overdose deaths. A deeply concerning aspect of this epidemic is the increasing prevalence of fentanyllaced substances, especially among teenagers and young adults.

Unknown substances

Teens are often unaware of the actual ingredients in the drugs they choose to experiment with. They may acquire these narcotics from friends, online sources or unreliable dealers.

What makes this scenario more dangerous is the unpredictable nature of fentanyl. Many substances are unknowingly laced with fentanyl, and teenagers may not have the experience or knowledge to recognize the danger.

Potency and Overdose: Fentanyl is incredibly potent. Even a minuscule amount can be lethal. According to healthcare presentations I have attended, an amount the size of the tip of an ink pen can be lethal.

Teenagers using substances laced with fentanyl are at risk of overdosing. A small miscalculation in dosage or a single use can lead to an overdose, with tragic consequences.

Inconsistent Dosage: When substances are laced with fentanyl, the distribution of the drug within the product is highly uneven. This means that a single batch may have areas with higher concentrations of the drug, which can lead to inconsistent and dangerous effects on the unsuspecting user.

Hidden Danger: The presence of fentanyl in a substance is often concealed, making it nearly impossible for users to detect. This can result in unexpected, life-threatening situations, as teenagers consume substances without knowing the risks involved.

A growing trend

Fentanyl-laced substances have emerged in various forms, including e-cigarettes, vapes, counterfeit prescription pills, cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and marijuana.

The drug trade has become increasingly sophisticated, with dealers mixing fentanyl into the above-listed substances to enhance their effects, often without the user’s knowledge.

The scale and rapid growth of the fentanyl crisis is reflected in the staggering rise in overdose deaths; up from 17,000 deaths in the United States in 2016 to 67,000 deaths in 2021. Data from various sources and public health agencies consistently show an alarming increase in fentanyl-related fatalities, particularly among teenagers and young adults. This is not a problem limited to one region or demographic; it is a nationwide concern that is growing each year.

The consequences of teenagers using substances laced with fentanyl are alarming. Overdose is the immediate risk, but there are also longterm concerns, including addiction and mental health issues.

Combat the crisis

We can work to combat the growing crisis that involves abusing or unknowingly taking fentanyl.

Through a multifaceted approach, we can educate, increase treatment options and provide community support. This approach will help reduce the amount and frequency of teen exposure to the drug while also providing more treatment options and support needed to discontinue the use of dangerous drugs.

Education: Teenagers must be educated about the dangers of unknown substances, the risks of fentanyl and the importance of not experimenting with drugs. Schools, parents and community organizations can play a pivotal role in educating our youth.

Access to Treatment: For those who have already fallen into addiction, accessible and effective treatment programs should be available.

Reducing the stigma surrounding addiction can encourage more teenagers to seek help.

Community Support: Communities should work together to provide resources for teenagers in need, offer alternatives to drug use and create environments where young people feel supported and connected.

Conclusion

The dangers of teenagers using fentanyl is a growing and lifethreatening issue. The unpredictable nature of fentanyl, coupled with the potency of the drug, makes this a crisis that demands immediate attention. Education, access to treatment and community support are all essential components in addressing this epidemic and protecting our youth from its devastating consequences. It is our collective responsibility to safeguard the future of the next generation from the lethal lure of experimenting with substances that may contain fentanyl.

Dr. Brandon Enos is the proud superintendent and lead learner of Cushing ISD in Cushing, Texas. He is a strong advocate for Texas Public School students and teachers.


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