One pill can kill: A deep-dive into the Fentanyl epidemic


Jason Armond/Los Angeles Times via AP

Students and community members place flowers and candles at Helen Bernstein High School where a teenage girl died of an overdose on Thursday, Sept. 15, 2022, in Los Angeles. Authorities said multiple Los Angeles teenagers have overdosed on pills likely laced with fentanyl over the past month, including the 15-year-old girl who died on the high school campus.

In recent years, there has been a rise in deaths as a result of Fentanyl–a synthetic opioid and powerful painkiller. When under the supervision of medical professionals, it can be a useful tool in postoperative pain management.

Fentanyl, like other opioids, is a depressant on the central nervous system, and can induce side effects such as drowsiness, relaxation, pain relief, euphoria, constipation, and slowed breathing,

Though invented for and traditionally used in medical settings, it has also seen increased use in the manufacturing of illicit drugs due to its potency. Drugs, such as heroin or cocaine, may be laced with fentanyl to both reduce production costs and intensify the effect of the drugs.

However, due to the lack of oversight in illegal drug production, many drugs laced with fentanyl contain lethal doses–capable of killing near immediately. To make matters worse, deaths regarding Fentanyl are often due to the victim taking another drug or a pill and not being made aware that it contained fentanyl, which makes it all the more dangerous because it is very hard to distinguish.

Just 2 milligrams of fentanyl could be fatal depending on several factors such as your body size, tolerance, and past usage if any. Fentanyl is usually smuggled into The United States through Mexico and has recently been popping up in various places around the country, however, it is very prominent in California.

More specifically, much of the drug has been found in Southern California. In 2021 more than 5,000 deaths have been reported as attributed to fentanyl in California. With a majority of the deaths being younger adults and more prominently as of late, teenagers, all between the ages of 14-25. Rainbow-colored fentanyl pills have been discovered by the DEA, Drug Enforcement Administration, which are said to be being used to target a younger demographic.

Teenagers being the majority of deaths as a result of fentanyl overdosing raises the question; why is it so easy for someone to obtain fentanyl, especially teenagers? In an article from AP News, On September 13th, Melanie Ramos, a 15-year-old student at Bernstein High School in Hollywood, was found unresponsive inside a restroom having had an apparent Fentanyl overdose.

Before her death, she and another student bought and took what they thought were painkillers that they bought from another 15-year-old boy on campus, according to the police. As soon as paramedics arrived she was pronounced dead on the scene. Her friend also suffered an overdose however she was merely hospitalized as opposed to Melanie.

Police believe that teenagers are obtaining drugs from social media.

Rainbow Fentanyl Pills (Good Morning America)

Teenagers are turning to Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook to find drugs that are more than likely laced with fentanyl. People or dealers more specifically, post images or videos of the medicines, advertising them as for sale and available for quick delivery or pick up.

A 16-year-old junior at Golden Valley says “I open the app [Snapchat] and I would scroll through stories, and about like out of 10 stories I scroll through, at least two are selling drugs.” Drugs are now being plugged into social media apps which increases the chances of fentanyl going around more.

While efforts are being made to address this problem of Fentanyl deaths among teenagers, more awareness should be spread of the situation. Many deaths have been in Santa Clarita, with the area being one of the most impacted areas by fentanyl. Just this year, 23 people have died in the Santa Clarita valley because of fentanyl causes.

Prompting the rising amount of fentanyl-related deaths in Santa Clarita, Golden Valley High School has shown its students a documentary on Fentanyl called Dead on Arrival. This is so that the students may be further educated on the subject matter and spread awareness of the dangers of Fentanyl.

Fentanyl is a very dangerous drug and is often found as a pill or in other drugs. Many people who happen to fall, victim, are people who were not aware of the fact that the drug that they were doing contained fentanyl. Fentanyl being indistinguishable from other drugs and pills alike makes it extremely dangerous which in turn could result in a lot of deaths. An overdose can happen to pretty much anyone. Please be cautious, stay away from drugs, and please stay safe.