CLACKAMAS COUNTY, Ore. — Health officials in Clackamas County are warning parents about the dangers of fentanyl after a reported increase in drug overdoses. Clackamas County Public Health Officer Dr. Sarah Present said teens are buying pills without knowing they're laced with fentanyl.
A synthetic opioid, fentanyl is similar to morphine but is roughly 50 to 100 times more potent. In the event of an overdose, it can cause someone to stop breathing within minutes.
"It's cheap and easy to manufacture," Dr. Present said. "Most fentanyl is coming from other countries still at this point, but it's coming into Oregon both as pills already pressed, or as powder and potentially being pressed into pills here."
Dr. Present said the pills look exactly like the ones you would get from a pharmacy.
"You can manufacture pills that maybe look like a Xanax," Dr. Present said, "and it's actually fentanyl and it costs five dollars or less."
Dr. Present said fentanyl is the main driver of overdoses within the county, and they are on the rise.
"We can look at hospitalizations, which have increased over 20% in Clackamas County over the last two years," Dr. Present said. "Deaths, unfortunately, in the last two years for drug overdoses have doubled."
Health officials said there's a lot of factors that can cause teens to use drugs; like depression, stress and anxiety. It's important for parents to talk to their kids about the dangers of drugs. It's also important to monitor their social media and pay attention to the friends they're around.
"Our youth are being targeted on platforms like Tiktok, Snapchat and Instagram," Public Health Director Philip Mason-Joyner said.
Cheryl Sharkey is a nurse with the Oregon City School District and recently drafted the policy to have Narcan, the nasal spray that reverses opioid overdoses, in all schools.
"Tomorrow we will be educating the first round of staff, it will be all of our health room assistants at our elementary, middle and high schools, and then we will proceed by the end of the month to have all the Narcan kits in all of our schools and the stadium." Sharkey said.
Sharkey said the Oregon City School District is also rolling out an educational program for all students that will teach about the dangers of drugs.