America’s fentanyl problem a growing threat for teens

America’s epidemic of overdose deaths tied to fentanyl is posing a growing threat to teens — and as they return to school, officials warn they may more frequently encounter the drug disguised in unexpected forms.

Driving the news: A teenage girl died and three others were hospitalized this week after overdosing at their Hollywood high school from what they thought were Percocet pills, the L.A. Times reported.

  • “We’re seeing fentanyl disguised as common medications for ADHD, or for pain, or for anxiety, and the pills that are being purchased look exactly like those medications,” Hall tells Axios.
  • The percentage of seizures in pill form increased from 13.8% in 2018 to 29.2% in 2021, a study published in May in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence found.
  • And, earlier this month, the DEA issued an advisory about an emerging trend of colorful or “rainbow” fentanyl — which could look like colorful pills or sidewalk chalk — and could be used to target young people. It has already been seized in at least 18 states.

What they’re saying: Teenagers “really don’t know the risk of the substances they’re using,” says O. Trent Hall, who specializes in addiction psychiatry at Ohio State University.

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