Fentanyl Concerns and What You Can Do to Stay Safe


Photo by Myriam Zilles on Unsplash

According to the CDC more than 932,000 people have died from fentanyl in the U.S. since 1999.

Payton Tanner, Editor

Recently the Denver Public Health Department hosted a summit addressing the current fentanyl crisis in Colorado.  According to FOX 31, Colorado has seized more fentanyl in 2022 than other years combined.Colorado has also had one of the nation’s highest increases in fentanyl overdoses from year to year. So what does this mean for Coloradans, specifically high school students, as they go out with others? 

Most people do not intentionally take fentanyl, rather, they participate in other drug use, and these drugs may be laced with fentanyl. As stated by the United States Drug Enforcement Administration,  just one kilogram of fentanyl has the potential to kill up to 500,000 people, and because of its potency and low cost, drug dealers have been mixing fentanyl with other drugs. With the easy access and low cost of fentanyl, a drug user can never truly know what is being taken, and one drug experience can lead to an overdose or possibly death.   

“One hit, one puff, one drink,and you can die,” school resource officer Deputy Dave Bruening said. “So as far as its effect on school, I think students pay attention as a whole, but when you’re at a party this weekend, or you’re in someone’s car this weekend and they pass something to you, or offer you something, do you think of that? ‘Well I can die.’ In the past, I didn’t think it was that dire, and that’s my concern. I just don’t know the level of concern that students have.”

Drug use is not a rare thing in high schools considering many people throughout the years have reported using drugs in their adolescence. Getting drugs and alcohol has not proved a difficult task for many teenagers who can get them virtually anywhere they go. Whether it is getting things through somebody of the legal age, or stealing things, teenagers do not face too many obstacles when seeking drugs.

With the concern for COVID 19 going down dramatically among teenagers, many are now going out to hang out with friends or go to parties on the weekend, and those warnings they hear in school about not using drugs begin to fade away. 

“I go to a lot of parties during the weekend, and I rarely see anyone sober at them. Parents who think their kids aren’t going out and doing drugs or drinking alcohol are many times delusional. I have seen people overdose, and while I am aware that fentanyl could be laced in any of the stuff that I am taking, at the moment it does not matter enough to me not to take the drugs,” an anonymous student from Dakota Ridge said. 

Dakota Ridge attempts to educate students about the dangers of drug use, but is this actually enough of a prevention? At the end of the day, it’s natural for teenagers to want to experiment, and in many cases, when someone is told not to do something, it makes them want to do it even more. There is little the adults in Dakota Ridge can control about what students choose to do outside of the classroom and on the weekends, the best help might be education and support. 

“If your friends are doing something bad and they try to influence you, that’s not a real friend, and you should be able to think on your own. Say no, just say no,” campus supervisor Tony Marchesi said. “Number one, you don’t know what you’re getting, you have no clue if they have put something into a drink. Fentynal is right now to the point where even if you touch it, you can die.”

Peer pressure has always been present among teens, but with the expanding normalization of teenagers drinking and using drugs, it is an even larger problem now. According to the  National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics, at least 50% of teenagers have misused a drug at least once. There is no pretending that drugs are not a large problem in today’s society, and due to people, specifically teens, not knowing themselves and just trying to fit in, peer pressure is a very prevalent thing.

Just touching fentanyl could cause respiratory distress and/or death if a small amount is absorbed into the body. (Photo by Jonah Brown on Unsplash)

“My first time smoking was with a group of my friends who were all older than me, and they had all done it many times before and told me I would love the experience. I was unsure if this was actually something I wanted to participate in, but when I saw them all looking at me, I just did it and was not thinking of the consequences. Before you know it, I smoked with them a few more times, then bam, I was addicted just like that. I struggled to admit I was addicted, and I still struggle now, but due to my actions a few years ago, in a moment of intense peer pressure, I now can’t go a day without smoking,” an anonymous student said.

As stated by Destination For Teens, because the brains of teens are still developing, the are more likely to take risks and are more susceptible to drug addictions than adults are. Many people experiment in their teenage years with drugs, but an experiment can become a lifestyle in just a second.

“I think anyone who walks the face of the Earth has at one point in life felt like this is stagnant, I feel stuck. Sometimes you go to a party and you try something that tastes good, and you feel better and expand your brain, superficially, but that doesn’t last. I think a lot of students have pains, and a lot of students go through a lot of things in their lives, a lot of difficult times. It is true escapism,” counselor Neil Smith said.

We are in a time where mental health is discussed more than in past years. Many people may think the way to avoid or “cure” their mental health is to turn to drugs and alcohol rather than getting the help they truly need. In Colorado there are many ways people who are addicted to drugs can get help, specifically Colorado Addiction Hotline. 

For those who would never use drugs, there are still ways fentanyl can be a danger. With Halloween quickly approaching, be aware of warnings about fentanyl and Halloween candy. If a candy is already open or looks tampered with, or if you find a brand you’ve never seen before, don’t eat it. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

And for those who are going to parties, “Know yourself —try to do the right thing by you. We are living in a society right now where you don’t know what you’re getting, you don’t know what you’re taking. Fentanyl is a drug being laced with everything,” Smith said. “Yes, a lot of people have to learn the hard way. I did, but there’s too much education to ignore it. You know that it’s dangerous, and you have to be very, very mindful. We lose peers and loved ones every single day to drugs and drug overdoses. Think about it. Is it worth it?”