Alissa Portillo

Opinions Editor

The fentanyl crisis has hit America hard. As claimed by KFF, in reference to the year 2020, approximately 69% of White persons overdosed on fentanyl, 17% were Black, 12% were Hispanic, and 2% were considered as Other. Concerning age range, it was found that 9% of opioid deaths were between the ages of zero to 24, 27% were between the ages of 25 to 34, 26% were aged 35 to 44, and 19% were found for both the age groups of 45 to 54 and 55 or older. Fentanyl is a hard-core opioid narcotic that is 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine. It was created to treat pain in the body of cancer patients. Just to compare how much stronger this narcotic is, it is important also to explain what morphine is. 

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, morphine is a “non-synthetic narcotic with a high potential for abuse and is derived from opium.” Similar to fentanyl, morphine is also used for the treatment of pain. Within the healthcare system, patients may receive morphine injections when a patient is experiencing excruciating body pain. The injection of morphine in the bloodstream is used for the patient to feel its effects of reducing pain and euphoric symptoms. Due to the effects, morphine can be easily abused by non-patients especially through injections because of its fast response to the body. 

Now, fentanyl is a drug that is a duplicate of these same effects, leading to the abuse and use of the drug for non-patients. According to the CDC, there are two types of fentanyl; pharmaceutical fentanyl and illicitly manufactured fentanyl. Pharmaceutical fentanyl is prescribed within the healthcare environment to treat patients with severe pain. Whereas, manufactured fentanyl is sold through illegal drug markets. This is where most overdose cases occur. This is because, “[i]t is often added to other drugs because of its extreme potency, which makes drugs cheaper, more powerful, more addictive, and more dangerous.” The DEA describes: “Fentanyl is added to heroin to increase its potency or be disguised as highly potent heroin. Many users believe that they are purchasing heroin and actually don’t know that they are purchasing fentanyl – which often results in overdose deaths.” 

This stresses the importance of fentanyl awareness. Administrator Anne Milgram from the DEA stated: “Fentanyl is the single deadliest drug threat our nation has ever encountered”. She further expresses that fentanyl is everywhere regardless of whether a person lives in a city or a small town. This deadly drug has since resulted in thousands of overdoses leading to unfortunate deaths. It was stated that “…107,375 people in the United States died of drug overdoses and drug poisonings in the 12-month period ending in January 2022.” With a concerning 67 percent of those deaths having involvement with synthetic opioids like fentanyl. Specifically , “[s]ome of these deaths were attributed to fentanyl mixed with other illicit drugs like cocaine, methamphetamine, and heroin, with many users unaware they were actually taking fentanyl.” 

The fentanyl crisis is apparent. There is not just a rise in fentanyl use directly, but there is now an emphasis on someone purchasing a drug that is laced with this deadly drug. As a result, thousands of deaths have occurred unexpectedly. These unexpected tragedies have begun to spread to adolescents. Specifically, the DEA released a public warning in August of 2022 concerning rainbow fentanyl and its use of targeting teenagers and children. Rainbow fentanyl is fentanyl pills and powders that come in different bright colors, shapes, and sizes. These pills look candy-like, which can lead to children and teenagers falling prey to mistaking these pills for actual candy. 

The DEA has strived to spread awareness of the distribution of fentanyl targeted toward children and adolescents. But, they also strive to enhance education on pills that are laced with fentanyl. The DEA released a campaign called ‘One Pill Can Kill’, which was designed to educate a user on noticing the differences between an authentic pill and a fake one that is full of fentanyl. One of the biggest ways to detect a fake pill versus a real one is through its lettering appearance. For instance, a fake pill will have its markings (a letter or number) appear very bold and noticeable. Yet, a real one will have the markings appear more blended in and less bolded or noticeable. But, besides this knowledge, there is also a guide for parents on everything they need to know about fake pills. Since Halloween is soon coming, it is crucial for this information to be seen by parents, educators, young people, and drug users so there is one less body to account for overdoses of fentanyl. 

Whittier College has services in place if there so happens to be a drug overdose on campus. The College issued in its Annual Security and Fire Safety Report: “Students are encouraged to seek resource help for drug and alcohol problems, through Counseling Services, Student Health and Wellness Center, Alhambra Behavioral Health Services, or by calling the Los Angeles County Alcohol and Drug Program…” Now, since fentanyl is illegally obtained, the College enforces federal penalties and sanctions for having possession of illegal controlled substances. The fine cost and imprisonment time vary depending on whether a student’s first or second conviction. Not just this, but other penalties can be made like forfeiting a student’s transportation that is used to transport or conceal a controlled substance and forfeiting one’s federal benefits like student loans, contracts, and more. Needless to say, the College is taking illegal substance possession very seriously. 

The Health and Wellness Center offers additional alcohol and drug crisis hotline resources, which can best support drug use concerning fentanyl. However, should an overdose occur on campus and medical attention is required you can call Campus Safety via phone number at 592.907.4211. If an overdose occurs off campus, call 911 right away. It is crucial for students to know what to do should an overdose emergency occur on campus, and it should be important for the College to inform students of this as well. 

Photo Courtesy of DEA

Authors

In collaboration by Quaker Campus staff members.
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