The extremely deadly drug has been found in vape pens on high school campuses in recent months. And officials have increasing concerns that middle school, high school, and college-aged kids are being targeted by criminals making fentanyl pills disguised as oxycodone, Adderall, and Xanax.
Jamie Puerta’s only child, Daniel, was 16 when he died after he took a pill containing a lethal dose of fentanyl.
“I walked into my son’s room at 8 o clock in the morning and found him dead,” Puerta said.
The Santa Clarita, California father has dedicated himself to keeping the drug out of the hands of young people.
“I’ll never see him get married or have a family of his own. I will never be a grandfather,” Puerta said.
Last month, police confiscated vape pens laced with fentanyl from students in at least two American high schools, one in Madisonville, Tennessee, and another in Norwalk, Connecticut.
Johan Pleitez a 19-year-old from El Monte, California is currently in rehab after overdosing on fentanyl and he says the problem is common.
“I’m a youngster myself, so I know a lot of people that do that at school, you know, it’s bad. They don’t know what they’re smoking anymore,” Pleitez said.
When asked how most students get their hands on illicit drugs like Fentanyl, Pleitez said “Snapchat, Instagram, people from their school, it’s everywhere.”
“Too many children are dying, and there should be no reason for this,” Puerta said.
Puerta says his son Daniel bought the fentanyl through a dealer on Snapchat believing it was oxycodone.
“I’m seeing kids, 16-year-old kids, that are buying drugs on the internet. These drugs are being dropped off to their homes,” said Cary Quashen, owner of Action Drug Rehab in Santa Clarita, CA.
Puerta says his son only took half a pill and it was enough to be fatal.
“Do I condone his decision of wanting to self-medicate during the pandemic or wanting to take a pill? Absolutely not. I do not condone it. But he certainly did not deserve to die for making that decision,” Puerta said.
Sarah Goldsby, with the South Carolina Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services (DAODAS), says there are serious concerns about fentanyl use in middle, high school, and college students.
“These drugs look like Adderall which is a very commonly misused prescription drug by our college students.”
While Goldsby says this is the most threatening drug the U.S. has ever seen before, she says it’s important to remember that there is always hope.
“There’s no shame in asking for help, help is available and lots of people are recovering from opioid use disorder,” she said.
It’s not just young people, Fentanyl overdose is currently the number one cause of death in adults aged 18-45 in the U.S., according to CDC data, and experts believe anxieties related to the pandemic has been making the problem worse.
“These drugs are not regulated at all. They’re manufactured in the back of someone’s truck, apartment, bathroom,” Goldsby said.
Individuals seeking treatment options can call the national Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) hotline at 1-800-662-help.