COLORADO SPRINGS — The El Paso County Coroner's Office tells News 5 the numbers show 2021 was a record setting year when it comes to drug related deaths in our communities. Fake prescription pills, commonly laced with deadly fentanyl, are being sold on social media and other online platforms.
This means anyone with a smartphone or computer can access these potentially deadly drugs. Drug investigators want us to see some of these emoji codes popping up in their investigations so we can take steps to protect our children if we see red flags.
The hope is being able to share this information and talk about the dangers of these transactions will save a life.
Colorado Springs Police Department School Resource Officer Bill Walsh has watched these communications evolving in our schools for the last 17 years.
"With social media your schools are interconnected with kids who meet eachother through different avenues and it's no longer a one school or one district issue. It is here not just even in the City of Colorado Springs, but it reaches into throughout this state and country," said Walsh. "These behaviors are being learned and taught by kids to eachother and as adults when we aren't involved in it we get further and further behind if we don't try to stay on top of it."
Last fall News 5 spoke with El Paso County Forensic Toxicologist Andrea Tully who showed us just one pill can kill.
"This is a really small pill and this is all it takes. That's all it takes is just one of these," said Tully holding the pill in the palm of her gloved hand. "Yeah, when it's laced with fentanyl that's enough to do you in right there."
The El Paso County Coroner's Office is still in the process of finalizing the numbers, but tells News5 it is confident 2021 was a record setting year for drug-related deaths and fentanyl-related deaths. It estimates the final numbers will reflect around 100 fentanyl deaths in 2021. This will likely double 2020's fentanyl death toll. In 2016 El Paso County had just 4 fentanyl deaths.
Seeing the impacts of all this, CSPD Student Resource Officer Bill Walsh says families across southern Colorado need to have some tough conversations
"I think it's important to gather as much knowledge as we can. Sticking our head in the sand and going it won't happen to us I think could sometimes be a devastating mistake to make," said Walsh.
If you discover information that may involve an area student, or one of our schools you can always report concerns and tips anonymously through the Safe2Tell program.
Here is all the information for that program and how it works: https://safe2tell.org/law-enforcement
Know someone struggling in this area? There is help including plenty of resources and people to talk to.
Here are some drug rehab, addiction, and recovery resources: