Dozens of parents attended a virtual emergency meeting Wednesday, looking for answers as dangerous street drugs circulate around Boulder County.
Last week, Boulder County health officials issued a warning about fake Xanax and Oxycodone prescription pills laced with fentanyl.
“It could be a teeny bit that you wouldn’t notice, or it might be enough to kill you,” said Rob Valuck.
Valuck is the director of the Center of Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention at the University of Colorado and says fentanyl in its intended form is 100 times more powerful than morphine.
Recently, illicit drug manufacturers have started lacing counterfeit prescription pills with fentanyl to provide a cheap, powerful punch.
The result has been felt across Colorado, where fentanyl deaths doubled in 2020, with 448 fentanyl-related overdoses.
Currently, Boulder County health officials estimate 25% of all black-market pills in the region contain fentanyl.
“This isn’t like the pharmaceutical industry giving you a tablet of Advil, that you know every time there’s 200mg of ibuprofen in that tablet,” says Valuck. “You don’t know what is in an illicitly manufactured tablet.”
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Wednesday’s meeting, hosted by a Boulder non-profit called Natural Highs, allowed parents the chance to ask questions. The majority involved how to talk to kids about the problem, and how kids can know if fentanyl is in the drug they are taking.
“We really urge them to stay calm and try to connect,” said Trina Faatz with the Boulder County Substance Use Advisory Group. “If parents offer to help, they don’t have to make it sound like it’s about their own kid, they can make it sound like it’s about their extended friends.”
Faatz says parents should consider giving their teenagers Narcan or Naloxone (which can reverse an overdose) to carry around at parties and other social events.
She says drugs like Xanax and Oxycodone are used far more frequently in social settings than parents realize.
“Now we’re seeing them with deadly substances in them, and we’re put on high alert,” she says.
Parents can also buy fentanyl test strips, which show whether fentanyl is present after rubbing a small amount of the drug on them.
If it is, people can choose to forego the drug entirely, or take a much smaller amount than they normally would.
“Each tablet is like Russian roulette,” said Rob Valuck. “Each time someone takes one of those tablets, if you did not get it at a pharmacy, it’s Russian roulette.”