More fentanyl increases the number of drug overdoses

Administration, parents, law enforcement, and even elementary D.A.R.E programs preach for youth to live a drug-free life. While this is the hope of these figures of authority, it obviously isn’t the reality. 

 According to the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics, 46.6 % of teens have tried drugs by the time they’re in 12th grade. So, whether against or indifferent to this reality, it is apparent that drugs are a part of most teenagers’ lives. 

In recent news, drug overdoses linked to fentanyl have increased. In the last recorded years from 2019 to 2020, there was a 56% increase in fentanyl overdoses according to the CDC.

“In the last couple of years, there’s been an extreme uptick in the number of cases involving fentanyl whether it be people overdosing on fentanyl, whether it be traffic stops where we’re finding fentanyl. Probably in the last two years, it’s been the most alarming how much it’s now part of society,” Troy Brown, East Grand Rapids public safety officer and school officer said.

Typically, when these fentanyl overdoses occur the drug that was taken to cause the overdose wasn’t thought to be fentanyl, but today, any drug can be laced with fentanyl.

 “I know of cases where kids have died and their parents will say ‘oh they thought it was an Adderall pill.’ You know they’re not supposed to have that but they’ll say they didn’t think it was fentanyl, they thought it was an Adderall pill,” Brown said. 

In a town like East it’s easy to see issues and problems being talked about but ignore them with the thought process of “it would never happen here”. Not only is this mindset dangerous, but it also is untrue. 

“People always think of these problems existing outside of East Grand Rapids. Well it does happen here, and we have had several overdoses within the city where we have had to use Narcan on people to get them back,” Brown said. 

Brown and other officers have seen reactions to fentanyl firsthand within recent months.

“We had an incident in Dec. where we had somebody who had taken what they thought was heroin in Grand Rapids. They then got into their vehicle and started driving down Wealthy Street. It turned out that the heroin they took was laced with fentanyl and they started having a reaction. They actually got into Gaslight and turned into the parking lot right by the Sheldon cleaners and crashed into a bunch of cars,” Brown said. 

In response to this public safety officers along with Brown had to act fast.

“When we got over there the guy was in the front seat, slumped over not breathing. We had to drag him out of the car, do Cpr on him, and use Narcan in order to get him back,” Brown said.

With fentanyl being found in a variety of drugs the question at hand is how to stay protected from possible exposure.

“Not to be blunt but the best way to protect yourself from fentanyl is to not do drugs. It is such a powerful drug. There have been documented cases, I can think of this police officer in Florida that had a car stopped and I believe during that stop a powdered form of fentanyl blew into her face and she stopped breathing,” Brown said. 

Reactions to fentanyl can be deadly, with life-threatening conditions beginning within minutes of usage.

“You’re going to start having significant brain damage within about six minutes and in East, we have probably one of the best emergency response times in the county. That’s still on average three minutes. That means half the time it’s taking more than three minutes for us to get to a person,” Brown said. 

If help is delayed, it’s important to know how to respond to someone having a reaction to fentanyl.

“So, if somebody can prolong that time when we are getting to the scene they can be doing chest compressions to keep blood going to the brain. Once we can get there, we can start breathing for them by getting Narcan on board,” Brown said. 

Even if you aren’t sure if someone is reacting to fentanyl it’s better to be prepared with help.

“If there is somebody who appears to be having a reaction but they’re breathing and they’re still alive um you still need to call 911 because time is of the essence if you happen to be around somebody um that has a reaction. If they stop breathing, they’re only going to maintain a pulse for a short amount of time, only a few minutes,” Brown said. 

 While people can’t be constantly monitored on their drug usage, it’s better to know the risks before using than to be oblivious to the dangers.

“People need to understand how dangerous Fentanyl is and how easy it is to be affected by it. To be honest, it scares us as police officers,” Brown said.