The release of recent information has shown that more people are overdosing on fentanyl than heroine for the first time in Arizona’s history. It has also been found that there is an increase in the number of teens that have the drug in their system.
Never before has Dr. Rahul Chawla seen so many teenagers brought to his emergency room as a result of overdosing. Chawla is a pediatrician at Banner Thunderbird’s Pediatric Intensive Care Unit.
“There’s no worse part of our job than have to tell a family there’s nothing we can do,” said Chawla. “You’ll see it when there’s times of stress in school, definitely Fridays and Saturdays.”
In a majority of cases, those that overdose aren’t addicted to the drug, but are instead found to be experimenting with some type of pill.
“They’re popping tablets or pills not knowing what they are or thinking they’re one thing, might just pop one and take it thinking it’s something,” said Dr. Chawla.
Unfortunately, just the smallest amount of fentanyl can have a lethal effect.
“The vast majority of the time they have no idea its fentanyl,” said Dr. Adam Bosak, a toxicologist at Banner Thunderbird. “This can happen to anybody’s children, and it has.
The DEA has had fentanyl on their radar for quite some time, as it previously entered the U.S. from China. Unfortunately, a new path has developed.
“The Mexican cartels have begun generating and manufacturing fentanyl products on their own,” said DEA spokesperson Erica Curry. “We’re seeing more fentanyl here along the southwest border and in Arizona than we see in the rest of the country.”
Knock-off Xanax and Percocet pills appear to be identical to the authentic version of the pills, but those coming from the cartels include an unknown dose of fentanyl.
Enough fentanyl to kill over 50 million people has been seized by the DEA in Arizona alone this year. According to experts, just one or two milligrams of fentanyl can be deadly to the average person.
“This is how scary this product is. This is how much is coming across the border. And this why we’re trying to warn everybody don’t take any of these substances,” Curry explained.
While the DEA continues to combat the issue by removing suppliers from the streets, it is important for parents to be informing their kids of the serious risks involved.
If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, there is help out there. The SAMHSA National Helpline is 1-800-662-HELP.