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"One pill could be the end": Oregon doctors urge parents and teens to talk about fentanyl

blue pills with M .jpg
Eugene Police Department
These fake oxycodone pills, known as 'blues' on the street, were found in Eugene to contain fentanyl.

Oregon physicians are seeing the terrifying, often deadly effects of fentanyl laced street drugs, especially among young adults. The medical community has a message for parents.

Dr. Sarah Leitz is Chief of Addiction Medicine for Kaiser Permanente in Portland. She said it’s crucial for parents to acknowledge that teens are going to experiment, even with drugs.

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John King
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Kaiser Permanente
Dr. Sarah Leitz is Chief of Addiction Medicine for Kaiser Permanente in Portland. She's got some important advice for parents.

“But also educate around the prevalence of fentanyl in so many substances,” she said. “And how just one pill could be the end.”

Leitz said a pin drop’s worth of Fentanyl can be fatal. Two teens recently died from accidental fentanyl overdose in Portland. Eugene had a similar tragedy involving teenagers last year.

While that is scary, parents shouldn’t stop at talking about risks. They also need to have overdose prevention strategies.

“Make sure they know to use a small amount. If they are ‘gonna use, never use alone. Have Narcan on hand. Use test strips if you’re able to,” Lietz said.

Narcan or Naloxone is a life-saving medication that can reverse an overdose from opioids, including heroin, fentanyl, and prescription opioid medications. Often it's given as a nasal spray. Lietz reminds parents and young adults that Naloxone can be prescribed at a pharmacy when requested.

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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Naloxone can reverse an overdose from opioids, including heroin and fentanyl.

Fentanyl test strips are a drug checking technology that can test drugs for the presence of fentanyl.

Unlike 20 years ago, today experimentation can be deadly. Straight talk is vital to keeping our teenagers alive.

“Fentanyl is everywhere,” Leitz said. “We’re more than a year into this crisis, and the tragic overdoses we’re seeing here in Oregon and around the nation are heartbreaking.”

Fentanyl has been found in non-prescription street drugs made to look like oxycodone or Xanex, as well as in cocaine and methamphetamine.

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Eugene Police Department
Fentanyl has been found in non-prescription street drugs made to look like Xanex. Fakes like these are believed to have caused the deaths of two teenagers in Eugene in 2021.

According to the Oregon Health Authority, there were 472 unintentional opioid overdoses in Oregon in 2020. In nearly half that time in 2021- from January to August -there were 473.

With the number of illicit fentanyl overdoses and deaths rising exponentially, the medical community insists now is the time to raise awareness about this crisis by educating parents and teens about the dangers of taking any non-prescription substances and knowing the tools available to help prevent fentanyl poisoning and death.

Tiffany joined the KLCC News team in 2007. She studied journalism at the University of Missouri-Columbia and has worked in a variety of media including television and daily print news. For KLCC, Tiffany reports on health care, social justice and local/regional news. She has won awards from Oregon Associated Press, PRNDI, and Education Writers Association.