Officials warn about dangerous drugs in community

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Courtesy of Drug Enforcement Administration

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has issued a public safety alert warning Americans about an alarming increase of fake prescription pills containing fentanyl and methamphetamine. The pills are deadly and are being mass-produced by criminal drug networks. DEA testing indicates a dramatic rise in the number of counterfeit pills containing at least two milligrams of fentanyl – which is considered a deadly dose.

From opioids to psychedelics, there is no mistake that there has been student drug use and possession here at Akins and or on every high school campus; we see it happen everywhere in bathrooms, behind outdoor sheds, closets, outdoor bathrooms, and even in plain view.

Recent trends such as CAKE bars and laced drugs are starting to become a new norm among many, and they are getting into the hands of teenagers nationwide. These laced drugs have become a new issue nationwide and have contributed to a large number of deaths every year.

In September, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) issued a public safety alert warning Americans about an alarming increase of fake prescription pills containing fentanyl and methamphetamine. The pills are deadly and are being mass-produced by criminal drug networks.

The alert, the first issued by the DEA in six years, says 9.5 million counterfeit pills have been seized so far this year, which is more than the last two years combined. The agency warns that the pills have been seized in every U.S. state in “unprecedented quantities.”

DEA testing indicates a dramatic rise in the number of counterfeit pills containing at least two milligrams of fentanyl – which is considered a deadly dose.

“The United States is facing an unprecedented crisis of overdose deaths fueled by illegally manufactured fentanyl and methamphetamine,” said Anne Milgram, Administrator of the DEA Drug Enforcement Administration. “In fact, DEA lab analyses reveal that two out of every five fake pills with fentanyl contain a potentially lethal dose … Today, we are alerting the public to this danger so that people have the information they need to protect themselves and their children.”

According to the DEA’s news release, the counterfeit pills often look like real prescription opioid medications such as oxycodone (Oxycontin, Percocet), hydrocodone (Vicodin), and alprazolam (Xanax); or stimulants like amphetamines (Adderall). Fake prescription pills are widely accessible and often sold on social media and e-commerce platforms – making them available to anyone with a smartphone, including minors.

The Eagle’s Eye recently distributed an anonymous online survey to ask students about illicit drug use in the Akins school community. According to the results, 72.7% of people have seen students use illicit substances this school year out of a sample of 43 respondents.

The Eagle’s Eye anonymous survey accepted anonymous responses from all Akins students and asked questions about personal experiences with illicit substances, what types of drugs the user has seen over the current school year, the reasons why students use illegal drugs, concerns over student drug use, and beliefs about how dangerous certain drugs are.

When questioned about what types of drugs were seen used by students, the responses ranged from marijuana, nicotine, and THC to harder substances such as Xanax, Adderall, cocaine, and Percocet.

According to the survey results, there are varying reasons for reasons why people use these illicit substances vary, with some saying they use it to self-medicate, others for the fun of it, and others because of peer pressure.

“It’s fun. I’ve never really had abuse problems, but like I’ve had periods of time where I may have overused, but I’ve never really been an addict,” said sophomore Jane Doe, which is an alias used to protect their identity. “It gives you a different lens to see the world through. It’s kind of like expanding your horizons, it’s like channeling something within you. Anything that you’re looking for, you can probably find it within a substance. It’s an easy access.”

Doe said that the primary drugs they have seen people use are marijuana and nicotine, but they are concerned about people using drugs that are laced with more dangerous substances.

“I’ve only really seen people do weed or nicotine and I worry about the fact that a lot of weed that people do can be laced with stuff,” Doe said.“I’d say that’s the only worrying trend, it’s not so much like the people smoking because you really can’t stop that but really people smoking laced materials.”

“I think by giving out drug tests and by offering counseling,” said Doe when they shared their ideas on how to mitigate the damage caused by laced illicit substances. “It’s an act of mental destabilization, it’s a sign of an unstable human, and if you want to fix someone who’s unstable you can’t punish them because punishment is a band-aid over a bullet hole when it comes to substance abuse.”

An additional poll conducted by the survey questioned the reasoning behind student drug use. The poll found that an 84.1% majority use them to escape from stress, with an additional 61.4% majority using them for the thrill of the experience, another 72.7% majority as a form of self-medication, and an additional 47.7% majority due to peer pressure.

Principal Tina Salazar said she is aware of students abusing counterfeit prescription drugs.

“I know some of our students are turning to Percocet. I’m concerned, fentanyl kills. I’m concerned that anything you buy whether it’s someone selling here, or outside, or wherever you’re getting your stuff, everything is unsafe because we don’t know what’s laced with fentanyl or not. It just takes one, because that’s how deadly fentanyl is.”

Meg Kozel, who runs the Student Support Services office and serves as a crisis counselor, said she hears a range of reasons why students say they use drugs.

“I think it can be a whole range of things. It can be anxiety, depression, and even just complicated dynamics at home,” she said. “This is something that we always go throughout in adolescence is just a feeling of not belonging and kind of feeling left out and the desire to connect with other people.”

Additional questions were also asked over the lethality of laced drugs with Kozel.

“A drug laced with fentanyl could end a person’s life, and my job in Akins is to keep our students safe. Knowing that some of our students are making choices to use illicit drugs, it makes it harder for us to keep them safe. The worst thing anyone on this campus ever has to go through is a student death, that’s what literally keeps us up at night.”

Health science teacher Jennifer Pittaway has seen the life-threatening effects drug use can have on young people when she worked previously as a paramedic and a former emergency room worker.

“Predominantly, it can affect the cardiovascular system where it attacks the heart and it’s definitely going to attack the nervous system,” she said. “It really depends on whatever chemical that fentanyl was compounded with generally.”

Pittaway said that drugs as strong as fentanyl can kill people within hours of having taken them.

“Basically you’re putting something foreign in your body, and your body was not designed to take these chemicals. Typically, an overdose will take between one to three hours to actually happen.”