To the editor: 

Approximately 68 percent of the more than 70,200 drug overdose deaths in 2017 involved an opioid.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, in 2017 the number of overdose deaths involving opioids (including prescription and illegal opioids) was six times higher than in 1999. Experimenting with drugs is more dangerous than ever, and with availability and use of synthetics one particularly dangerous opioid drug on the rise. Its name? Fentanyl.

Fentanyl was involved in almost 29 percent of all overdose deaths in 2016, making it the most commonly used drug in overdose fatalities. The rate of drug overdose deaths involving fentanyl jumped by about 113 percent each year from 2013 through 2016. It is a synthetic (man-made) drug that is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. This powerful analgesic drug is used to manage surgical, severe or sometimes chronic pain in people who are tolerant to other opioids. 

Fentanyl may be “cut” with other drugs or substances in order to make them go further. It has been found in heroin, meth, cocaine, crack cocaine and even marijuana. Fentanyl can be up to 50 times stronger than heroin.

While mixing fentanyl into heroin makes it cheaper, stronger and potentially more desirable because it blocks pain receptors and increases dopamine, it also causes many adverse health impacts. Fentanyl can cause altered heartbeat, anxiety, muscle spasms, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, hallucinations and stronger physical dependence and withdrawal. Individuals who are unaware of the presence of fentanyl in their heroin risk dying from asphyxiation. Just two milligrams — comparable to about two grains of salt — can be fatal. 

There are so many risks with using or even experimenting with these types of drugs. Talk to your children about the dangers involved to help prevent them from potentially obtaining a cheap high that could cost them their lives. 

To learn about how to start the conversation with your children, visit the Jay County Drug Prevention Coalition (JCDPC). It meets at 3:30 p.m. on the third Monday of each month at John Jay Center for Learning. The coalition is comprised of a variety of community representatives: parents, leaders, health care workers, social service providers, media, school personnel, law enforcement officers, recovery groups, retirees and even young people.

Together we promote healthy living and a drug-free Jay County. 

Kimbra Chenoweth-O’Brien

Jay County Drug Prevention Coalition