Fentanyl Use Rises in Northland

The fentanyl epidemic is plaguing the Kansas City Metro Area

Brianne Tremper, Editor in Chief

     Fentanyl abuse has risen among youth and young adults, killing thousands nationwide and has hit Northland youth hard. 

     Fentanyl is an opioid often prescribed for chronic pain, but drug dealers are creating fake prescription pills that look authentic and selling them to people looking to get high. They look almost identical to the real ones, like Xanax, Oxycodone or Adderall, but some are also multicolored and look somewhat like candy.

     “It has to be sent to a laboratory to be tested by a chemist to determine it,” detective Mike Nelson from the Clay County Sheriff’s Drug Task Force said. 

     Drug use is prevalent in America. According to PEW Research Center, 46% of Americans know someone who is struggling with substance abuse. Senior Kozmo Guerra-Harris said their brother battled substance abuse but has since overcome it.

     “Talking to him was really hard because he would be really short or really rude to us,” senior Kozmo Guerra-Harris said. “It got to a point where he would start verbal fights.” 

     Street Fentanyl is incredibly lethal because it is made by people who aren’t professionals. The amount distributed in the pill is unbalanced, which makes it much easier to overdose. It only takes 2-3 milligrams to overdose, according to the Drug Enforcement Agency.

     “One pill will kill you,” Nelson said.

     Most cases the Clay County Drug Task force has seen were in young adults between the ages of 17-22. The task force worked around the clock to get the crisis under control. Fentanyl use wasn’t a notable issue 10-20 years ago, but now it is at the forefront of the drug’s law enforcement wants off the streets. In 2021, opioid related deaths rose 73% in the Kansas City Metro area, according to the Centers for Disease Control. 

     The Clay County Sheriff’s department is combating Fentanyl by arresting the dealers, not the victims.

     “Unfortunately, there’s victims, and the victims are kids and family members,” Nelson said.

     It is difficult to identify what a Fentanyl pill looks like, as the ones made by dealers look nearly identical to the ones produced by pharmacists. They are often white or blue circular pills with M30 stamped on them. However, there has been a rise in brightly colored pills that contain Fentanyl, which makes it more appealing to young people, according to the Drug Enforcement Agency. The rainbow pills could also be in cube form, which resembles chalk. 

     In many cases, people are looking to buy other drugs but instead are sold pills containing Fentanyl. People who produce these pills lace them and often don’t tell the people purchasing them, though some users do know that they are purchasing Fentanyl.

     “They’re almost looking for something like an MDMA and ecstasy pill where they’re producing them identical to that,” Nelson said

     Fentanyl has no zip code. Fentanyl doesn’t care about age, gender, socioeconomic status or health. In a recent case, two Johnson County, Kansas, girls died from an overdose.

     “We had a couple of girls who came over here to Kansas City, bought Fentanyl pills, not knowing there was Fentanyl in them,” Nelson said. “They broke it in half. She took one, the other took one. The girl that took half of the pill, everything was good. The second girl that took the other one overdosed and died.”

In Belton, Missouri, there have been fatalities from Fentanyl in recent months – a recent graduate, a student and another student suspected of an overdose last school year. Parents have started an organization, “You Matter Belton” to combat the problem.

     Sen. Roger Marshall (R-Kansas) proposed the Cooper Davis Act in the U.S. Senate, after the death of a 16-year-old who overdosed after consuming a pill he thought was Percocet but turned out to be Fentanyl. The law would require social media sites to work with authorities to stop the sale of illegal drugs. The law has since passed.

     There is something that has been able to revive people after an overdose. Narcan can usually stop an overdose, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Its full medical name is Naloxone, and it can come as  a nasal spray or can also be injected into a person, like an EpiPen. Nelson said some drug dealers sell Fentanyl pills with a box of Narcan. 

     In an age where people can get most anything at their fingertips, it’s easy to obtain drugs like fentanyl. Nelson said a majority of Fentanyl sales are done on social media, with the main platform being Snapchat. Users think the messages disappear after they are sent, but police are able to subpoena messages which are to be used in a court of law.

     “I can’t bring your son back or daughter back,” Nelson said. “I wish I could, so let’s give them justice.”