Deaths from fake pills with fentanyl are surging across the country and right here in our own school district. In 2020-21 we lost several students to fentanyl-related poisonings — teenagers who had hopes and dreams and plans. These teenagers had families who loved them and are still coming to grips with their losses.
Teens are purchasing what they think are OxyContin, Percoset, Adderall or Xanax pills via social media, but drug dealers are making these fake pills with the cheaper, stronger and more deadly synthetic drug called fentanyl to increase their profits. Fentanyl is up to 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine. Fentanyl is odorless, tasteless and colorless. Teens never know what they’re getting. One pill can kill them. One pill.
Fentanyl filled pills are being sold in many forms, such as M30s, Percocet, Adderall, or Xanax, all looking exactly like legitimate pharmaceutical pills. Rainbow fentanyl pills are becoming more common, and many are concerned these brightly colored pills may be even more attractive to young people. The tablets are so well made that even experienced users say that they can’t tell the difference between a counterfeit pill and a pill manufactured by a pharmaceutical company. To be clear, these are not pharmaceutical-grade painkillers; they are pills made by drug dealers, mostly outside the country. There is no quality control. Pills in the same batch can have wildly varying levels of fentanyl. The amount of fentanyl is takes to overdose and die is equivalent to about two grains of sand. Fentanyl is also being found in street drugs such as molly/MDMA (Ecstasy), cocaine, heroin and more. Local investigators point to advertisements on social media platforms like Snapchat as a common source of the illicit pills. Officials say that young people find pills especially appealing because they’re cheap, more socially acceptable than meth or heroin and don’t have a tell-tale smell like alcohol or marijuana.
In December 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a health alert because of an increase in synthetic opioids that hit the western United States — and the Interstate 5 corridor, in particular.
In April 2022 The Oregon-Idaho High Intensity Drug Trafficking Team issued a Community Threat Bulletin due to the large amount of illicit fentanyl being found in our region. (Spanish Community Threat Bulletin)
DEA Laboratory Testing Reveals that 6 out of 10 Fentanyl-Laced Fake Prescription Pills Now Contain a Potentially Lethal Dose of Fentanyl
In December 2022 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a MMWR report in which it stated “Urgent efforts to prevent overdose deaths among adolescents are needed and include educating about dangers of IMFs (illicitly manufactured fentanyls) and counterfeit pills.”
Resources for Educators
- High School Health Lesson
- High School Lesson Teacher's Guide
- Middle School Health Lesson
- Advisory Mini Lesson
- ODE Toolkit for Schools
These lessons are being provided with no restrictions. Feel free to download and alter as needed.
Resources for Parents
- Song for Charlie
- Washington County 24-hour Crisis Line: 503-291-9111
- Hawthorn Walk-In Center: 5240 NE Elam Young Parkway, Suite 100, Hillsboro (Hawthorn Farm Max Stop)
- Alcohol & Drug Help Line: 800-923-4357
- Oregon Youth Line: 877-968-8491 (text or call)
- Text teen2teen at 839863
- Drug Rehab Services (DRS) Parent's Guide to Fentanyl
We partnered with the Beaverton Police Department, the Washington County Sheriff's Office and the Washington County Public Health Department to raise awareness about the dangers of buying pills on social media. We posted on the district's and schools' social media accounts. Our middle, high and option school students received fentanyl-related lessons in their health and advisory classes. Our administrators and staff received specific fentanyl training. And we engaged in a Community Conversation about the dangers of fentanyl with local experts and impacted family members.
If you'd like to organize your own campaign and access to our social posts, graphics and logos, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Community Conversation 2021
How can you help?
One of the best ways to protect kids from substance abuse is by having regular and open conversations to educate them about the risks. Listen to them without judgment. Also monitor their social media use. Drugs are often offered by someone that they know or a stranger that they meet on social media.
Watch for changes in their behavior including:
- Irregular eating or sleeping patterns
- Low energy
- General signs of depression or anxiety
- Unusual irritability
- Slipping grades
- Lack of interest in activities that they once loved
- Drastic clothing style changes
If you notice a change, ask about it. Trust your instincts.
Be part of the solution! If you see drugs being advertised on social media, report it anonymously to SafeOregon.