NEWS: Lawrence Battles with the Fentanyl Crisis

Drug related deaths spark conversations of fentanyl in Lawrence.


Lady Ortega-Perez

Percocet, oxycodone, and THC cartridges are some of the most common drugs unknowingly laced with fentanyl.

Stella Mosier

According to the Center of Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], Kansas saw over 600 overdose deaths reported due to fentanyl in Kansas in Sept. 2021; a 48% increase.     

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is approximately 50 times stronger than heroin and can be up to a 100 times stronger than morphine. According to the United States Drug Enforcement Administration [DEA], two milligrams of fentanyl, depending on body weight, can kill a human. The issue is not just its deadly potency, but that it’s also becoming increasingly more common due to its easy production and being highly addictive.

The drug has been mistaken for other highly harmful but not as deadly substances and has led to many deaths. A pharmacist that has been working on opioid prescription and storage for the last 15 years, James Lichuer, explains the recent increase in accidental fentanyl related deaths. 

“We’re finding that illegally manufactured fentanyl is on the streets and [is] killing most people in a poisonous situation because they’re not intending on taking fentanyl,” Lichaur said. “They’re thinking they are taking other drugs and they’re overdosing and dying.” 

While many believe they are safe from fentanyl since they do not directly consume or inject it, reports have shown that many other drugs, like oxycodone pills and tetrahydrocannabinol [THC] cartridges, are being laced with fentanyl. 

Lawrence Police Department officer Jared Hedges expresses the prevalence fentanyl is beginning to have. 

“One of the issues we’re having now is we are finding fentanyl in everything,” Hedge said. “We found fentanyl in synthetic marijuana a few months ago, and pretty much any type of drug that we deal with in Lawrence has had fentanyl mixed in with it.”

While Fentanyl related cases have taken over the jobs of the Lawrence Police Department, it has also plagued the lives of students. 

“During my sophomore year, I was sold a THC cartridge laced with fentanyl by a local plug [drug dealer,]” an anonymous student reported. “I had multiple seizures and I experienced permanent memory and sensory issues as an effect of careless and rapid consumption.” 

When fentanyl is ingested even in small amounts, it can cause serious damage.  According to the DEA, overdose effects include respiratory failure, coma’s, stupor, changes in pupillary size, and discoloration of the skin. 

On Tuesday Oct. 18, school admin held a Current Illegal Drug Trend Night for parents. 

Disclaimer: In order to interview parents attending the Current Illegal Drug Trend Night, associate principal Amanada Faunce requested that all parents remain anonymous for this story.  

“I am concerned because it’s so unexpected,” a parent said. “And when [an overdose] happens to someone, it’s almost too late already.”

The most effective way to prevent an overdose is to not put anything into your body unless you are fully informed as to what it is and where it comes from.

Office administrators collect students’ vape pens and lighters. Most items are turned over to School Resource Officer Kacey Wiltz. “Last year, we collected items daily; this year, the numbers are much lower,” said Officer Wiltz.

“A lot of students are exposed to unsafe drug use,” the anonymous student said. “Not because they want to search for a ‘higher’ high, but simply out of unknowingness and lack of control over what they are being sold.” 

Many times, people in drug related incidents are afraid to notify authorities for help due to possible legal implications.

“Oftentimes they don’t report [overdoses] because they’re worried about if the police show up,” Hedge said. “And that’s not a good way to do it; We don’t care, we just want to save the life.”

To combat an overdose, police officers and first responders typically use Narcan, an opioid antagonist medicine in the form of a nasal spray. This easy to use medicine can be bought by the public and can instantly reverse the effects of an overdose. However, in an emergency always call 911.