Fentanyl is flooding our communities. Some teens are purchasing what they think are Adderall, Percocet, Oxycodone and Xanax pills via social media; what they’re getting are fake pills made from the cheap, deadly and more potent synthetic drug called fentanyl. The drug is odorless, tasteless and colorless. Fentanyl is up to 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine. The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) estimates that 6 in 10 fake pills contain a potentially lethal dose of fentanyl.
To be clear, these pills are not pharmaceutical-grade medications. Most of the time, fentanyl is coming across the border from Mexican cartels in the form of powder. It’s then pressed into counterfeit pills which look exactly like tablets manufactured by legitimate pharmaceutical companies, but there's no quality control. Pills in the same batch can have wildly varying levels of fentanyl. The amount of fentanyl that it takes to overdose and die is equivalent to two grains of sand! Fentanyl also can found in street drugs like cocaine, heroin and MDMA (Ecstasy/Molly).
Drug dealers are targeting teens. Law enforcement investigators point to advertisements on social media platforms like Snapchat and TikTok. 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 general, kids see pills as being “safe.” Recent polls indicate that more than two-thirds of teens have never heard about fentanyl and its dangers.
If you’re a parent and are thinking to yourself, “my kid isn’t a drug addict,” know that most teens who use pills do not fit our dated notion of a drug user. Often, teens are seeking out what they think are real pharmaceutical pills to deal with anxiety or other mental health struggles. Others are looking to experiment or have “some fun.” But the days of harmless experimentation are over when one pill can kill.
BSD believes strongly that when we equip our students with knowledge and then repeat that information regularly, they're more likely to make responsible decisions. Educating parents, too, is an important component. Any lesson learned at school needs to be reinforced at home.
What's BSD doing?
Every middle, high and option school student in BSD receives a yearly fentanyl-specific lesson as part of their advisory or health class. These lessons are regularly updated to reflect the current drug landscape. In addition, because of support from the Beaverton School Board, all our secondary schools are stocked with Naloxone, a medication that can potentially reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. Select staff members in each school are trained on the use of Naloxone, also known as Narcan.
Similar to what the district did in April 2021, we embarked on a fentanyl awareness campaign on our school and district social media accounts during the week of May 8-12, hoping to further educate both our students and parents about the dangers of fentanyl.
On May 18, 2023, we hosted our second Community Conversation about Fentanyl. We invite you to listen to our panel of experts.
- 7:27 Video: Cal's Story — Two Years Later
- 14:57 Jennifer Epstein, BSD Parent and National Fentanyl Awareness Advocate
- 24:13 Kristen Gustafson, BSD Physical Education/Health Teacher on Special Assignment
- 26:52 Bethany Wright-Kuhns, BSD Drug & Alcohol Intervention Program Educator on Special Assignment
- 31:44 Sgt. Danny DiPietro, Washington County Sheriff’s Office
- 39:15 Questions from the audience
Who's inspired our work?
In the 2020-2021 school year, we lost several students and former students to fentanyl-related poisonings — teenagers who had hopes, dreams and plans. These teenagers had families who loved them and are still coming to grips with their losses.
BSD was one of the first school districts in the country to address the fentanyl epidemic, largely due to the support of BSD parents Jon and Jennifer Epstein and their willingness to share their son’s story. Cal’s Story and an accompanying video message from Cal’s brother, Miles, are shared with all BSD students as part of our fentanyl curriculum.
The Epsteins have become national advocates for fentanyl awareness education and policy change and continue to work in concert with BSD and a nonprofit called Song for Charlie. We are grateful to the Epstein family for their guidance and courage.
How are we helping other school districts?
We desperately want all students and parents to hear this message, no matter where they live.
To that end, we have made all our resources freely available to any school district or agency in the country to use. These resources are being provided with no restrictions. Feel free to download and alter as needed. Note: We'll be updating and adding to these lessons by July 1, 2023. Please check back.
In addition, if you'd like to organize your own awareness campaign and want access to our social posts, graphics and logos, email email@example.com.