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With the rising number of fentanyl overdoses and deaths, it is important for families to know about the dangers and spread the word about the dangers associated with this highly potent drug.

Last year, overall drug overdose deaths among all ages increased to more than 100,000. Pharmaceutical fentanyl is a synthetic opioid. It is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. It is approved for prescription use in the U.S. to treat severe pain. While prescription fentanyl is dangerous, most recent cases of fentanyl-related overdose, death and injury in America are associated with illegally made and distributed fentanyl. Fentanyl is being mixed with other highly addictive and dangerous drugs in the illegal drug market.

Tragically, youth have died of fentanyl poisoning locally and across the United States. According to a study released in April, the overdose and poisoning death rate among U.S. adolescents nearly doubled from 2019 to 2020 and increases continued into 2021.

A main reason for this alarming increase in overdose deaths among youth appears to be the supply of increasingly deadly drugs laced with illegally made fentanyl. Teens believe that prescription drugs are safe. Since opioids are available by prescription, many children and teens may not fully understand their danger and also do not realize that fentanyl is being added to other drugs.

Illicit drugs are also being made to mimic prescription drugs. Youth find illegal fentanyl and other pills through online sources. Youth and others may believe that the opioid, Adderall or Xanax pills they are buying are prescription medications that have been diverted from the legal supply. However, it is now significantly more likely that those pills are actually counterfeit tablets containing fentanyl or similar synthetic opioids.

Experts urge parents and guardians to be aware of these dangers and to talk with youth about their health. They also recommend that families:

  • Help youth deal with peer pressure to use drugs.
  • Get to know youth’s friends and their parents.
  • Monitor youth’s whereabouts and supervise their activities.
  • Carefully monitor medication use if youth are taking medications.
  • Properly store unused prescription medications in secure places in the home or destroy them
  • Talk to youth often about their activities, interests, friends and well-being.
  • Pay attention to  signs that youth’s behavior may be changing in negative ways.

Know the risks and find more resources on the Santa Clara County Office of Education website at

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has information, resources, and assistance with mental health or substance abuse, at The SAMHSA’s National Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357), also known as the Treatment Referral Routing Service, or TTY: 1-800-487-4889 is a confidential, free, 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year information service, in English and Spanish, for individuals and family members facing mental and/or substance use disorders.