Posted on Thursday, Nov 03, 2022 by Bob Dittman, Marya Morgan

(K-LOVE Closer Look) – Charlie was a college senior. One regular Thursday while anxiously awaiting a job interview he popped a street pill that looked like medicine. It was his last. 

“More young people than ever before have died after taking a drug they did not want and did not ask for,” warns Ed Ternan, co-founder of Song for Charlie. His son became one of the thousands of people poisoned by fake pills disguised as common prescriptions like Xanax or Percocet. 

Easy to mix in a 5-gallon paint bucket, fentanyl has become the raw material of choice for drug cartels and street dealers. And why not? “A little bit goes a long way,” Ternan says, “so they can make a whole bunch of these fake pills with just a little bit fentanyl – it’s cheap, very hard to detect, it has no odor and it’s very strong.” Up to 100x more powerful than morphine, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency confirms fentanyl has thoroughly polluted the modern illegal drug supply. “Making fentanyl in a lab became exceedingly less expensive,” adds Pat Aussem of the Partnership To End Addiction. “It’s terrifying.” 

Fentanyl is a legitimate pain-killer used since the 1950s for surgeries, but tolerance varies vastly person to person – and so does the dosage of each illegal pill. “One pill may have no fentanyl in it and one may have enough to kill 5 adults,” warns Ternan. “So it’s an extremely risky behavior these days to go online or on the street or in the locker room or at a party and take a pill from someone without knowing that it comes from a legitimate source.” Just one 1 of 3 kids have ever even heard of fentanyl – yet 75% of overdoses among teens is connected to this powerful substance.

Health officials and parents like Ternan continue to sound the alarm, calling the recent spike in drug overdoses a national crisis – one best tackled with awareness. “We tell kids, ‘if it doesn’t come from a bottle that has two names it -- yours and your doctor’s -- you have to assume it’s fake: and if it’s fake, it’s made of fentanyl.” 

Parents and grandparents are urged to talk to their kids about the dangers of drugs – not as a moral choice but as a health warning.

“Son, Daughter, I love you, you need to know that the drug supply is really polluted these days, with very strong chemicals – and it’s unpredictable and you don’t know what you’re getting – more than ever you have to understand that.” 

“We still say ‘just say no’ but we spell it K. N. O. W. because many of these young victims are dying from taking a substance they didn’t ask for.’

Going beyond the dire warnings, Song for Charlie and others work diligently to divert kids from drug use entirely.

“There are lots of rites of passage as a teenager but this certainly isn’t a healthy one,” says Aussem. “The biggest issue is brain development…any substance use can alter the way the brain develops,” and warns taking a pill likely laced with fentanyl plays Russian roulette with respiratory distress or death.

“You can’t fix real stress with fake pills,” Ternan says, suggesting people rediscover laughter and human connection, art and exercise to alter their mood. “We have to tell them that this quick-fix-pop-a-pill, find a pill to relieve your stress, that solution has to be taken of the playlist -- it’s too dangerous now.” 

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