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More of Kansas City's young people are dying from fentanyl-related overdoses

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A photo shows fake OxyContin pills, which often contain fentanyl.
U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration
/
Celisa Calacal
Fake OxyContin pills often contain fentanyl.

The Kansas City Police Department says officers have seen an increase in accidental fentanyl-related overdoses in individuals ages 15 to 24.

Last month, the Kansas City Police Department announced that accidental overdoses from fentanyl had climbed nearly 150% from 2019 to 2020 in the metro area. One age group especially affected was people between 15 and 24.

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 80-100 times stronger than morphine. It's added to heroin, cocaine and even marijuana to increase their potency. Many users believe that they are purchasing one drug and actually don’t know they are purchasing fentanyl, which often results in overdose deaths.

Among American teens, fentanyl-related overdose deaths rose 350% from 2019 to 2021, to a record of nearly 108,000 last year.

That was up 15% from the previous year, which also was a record.

Margaux Guignon, director of prevention services for FirstcallKC, said the problem is not that kids are looking for fentanyl but rather the other drugs they're using, not knowing they can be spiked with a deadly dose of fentanyl.

Without laboratory testing, there’s no way to know the amount of fentanyl in an individual pill or how much may have been added to another drug.

"It's a very potent drug ... many times stronger than heroin and extremely dangerous," said Miles Aley, assistant special agent in charge for the Drug Enforcement Administration. "A lethal dose is around two milligrams of this drug, so, just a few grains of salt, about what you could scoop up with a sharp pencil. So, dosing it correctly can be very difficult."

Laced drugs aren't the only way children are getting addicted and overdosing.

One caller shared an experience involving her son, who needed surgery to repair his broken pinky finger. Doctors used fentanyl to alleviate the pain, and her son became addicted to the drug six months after his procedure. This happened on March 1, 2020, and since then her son has served a year in jail and is currently in rehab.

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When I host Up To Date each morning at 9 a.m., my aim is to engage the community in conversations about the Kansas City area’s challenges, hopes and opportunities. I try to ask the questions that listeners want answered about the day’s most pressing issues and provide a place for residents to engage directly with newsmakers. My email is steve@kcur.org.
Reginald David is an assistant producer with Up To Date. You can reach him at reginalddavid@kcur.org.