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DEA warns of increase in youth fentanyl use

Fentanyl
Posted at 11:30 AM, Aug 15, 2023
and last updated 2023-08-17 17:36:56-04

COLORADO SPRINGS — Fentanyl overdose is the leading cause of death among young adults between the ages of 18 and 45. The Drug Enforcement Administration is warning communities that one pill can kill.

Fentanyl is an extremely powerful narcotic, 50 times stronger than heroin, 100 times stronger than morphine. Yet the pills distributed by street dealers appear less threatening than other types of drugs.

Dan Olesky, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the DEA Rocky Mountain Field Division, believes part of the reason so many young people are dying from fentanyl overdose is because the pills seem less scary.

"While there might be a certain stigma associated with heroin which is also an opioid, you know there's needle use, there's smoking; but when it comes to fentanyl and it's coming in the form of these pills that there's not a stigma associated with it," he said. "It's the same as taking a morning vitamin, a Tylenol, or some headache medicine. And so, there's not that perceived threat from just looking at a pill."

Many young people who fall victim to fentanyl poisoning often do not realize the pill they are taking has been laced with the drug.

Most drug deals now happen online with dealers contacting young people on social media. Olesky explained many savvy dealers will use emojis to solicit the products.

A rocket or bomb emoji might symbolize that a drug is very potent. Cookie emojis signal a fresh batch. An image of a power cord can symbolize that someone has a "hook-up."

"Years ago, you might have to travel to a dangerous part of town, maybe even exchange cash for drugs," Olesky explained. "The world that we live in today is so different where somebody can go online and with just a few clicks of a button have fentanyl and these pills delivered straight to the front door of your home."

Agents are targeting the Sinaloa and Jalisco cartels which are most responsible for illicit fentanyl distribution in the US. Olesky explained the cartels receive precursor chemicals out of China and then manufacture counterfeit prescriptions south of the border.

Roughly six out of 10 pills seized by agents in 2022 contained potentially lethal amounts of fentanyl.
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