Our fentanyl plan

Illegally manufactured fentanyl, a synthetic opioid 80–100 times more potent than morphine, is contaminating the drug supply in the United States at alarming rates. According to the CDC, we lost over 107,000 Americans to overdoses in 2021, largely driven by fentanyl.

It's a scary situation, but there are solutions. Get the facts about fentanyl and learn how you can keep yourself and your loved ones safe.

While fentanyl has legitimate medical uses, it’s illegally manufactured fentanyl that is causing overdoses to spike

Pharmaceutical fentanyl is an effective medication when used for pain management, especially in surgical settings or to treat cancer pain.

What’s causing overdoses to spike is the presence of illegally manufactured fentanyl within the underground drug supply. People buying opioids on the illegal market do not have information about potency, quality, and other factors. This means that using illegally manufactured drugs is a lot riskier than other medications or legal substances like alcohol, where dosage and potency is well-documented.

Though fentanyl was once primarily found in heroin, it’s now increasingly present in the supply of counterfeit pressed pills as well as cocaine and other stimulants. This is done for a variety of reasons, including to make drugs cheaper, more potent, and easier to transport.

As a result, more people than ever are overdosing accidentally, not knowing the strength of their drugs or not knowing that they’re using fentanyl at all.

Misinformation can contribute to panic and stigma.

In many ways this situation represents a new, frightening frontier in American drug use. As a result, confusion and misinformation can spread quickly in the media and within local communities. But as scary as the situation is, it’s important to debunk these myths so we can react appropriately.

For example, it is not possible to overdose on fentanyl just by touching it or breathing near it. Remember, fentanyl is stored and handled in hospitals across the country without incident every day. People present at overdose scenes should not be afraid to help people in need out of fear of harming themselves. Overdoses are not contagious.

There are many proven policy solutions to preventing fentanyl overdoses.

Overdose data collection & information sharing. Data collection, analysis and sharing of information are critically important in federal and state efforts to reduce overdose deaths. Healthcare professionals, law enforcement agencies, policy makers and others involved must have timely, accurate data to respond effectively to the rapidly evolving fentanyl epidemic.

Fentanyl testing strips. Drug users are often unaware that the drugs they are purchasing are laced with fentanyl. But drug users can monitor the presence of fentanyl in street drugs by using fentanyl test strips. They are easy to use, and the cost per test strip ranges between $1.00 to $2.00. Learn how to use Fentanyl test strips.

Naloxone. Also known by the brand name Narcan, it’s a safe medication that is widely used by emergency medical personnel and other first responders to reverse opioid overdose. According to NIDA, expanding naloxone access and training drug users, their relatives, friends, and community members on how to administer it could reduce overdose deaths by as much as 21%.

911 Good Samaritan Laws. In addition to naloxone use, it’s critical to call 911 in the case of drug overdose, especially when fentanyl is involved. However, people may not always call 911 in overdose situations due to fear of police involvement. 911 Good Samaritan Laws (GSLS) provide protection from prosecution for low-level drug offenses for the person requesting medical assistance and the person who overdosed. Reducing barriers to calling 911 has the potential to save victims of overdose from serious injury and death.

Public education campaigns. Despite fentanyl’s deadly toll, public awareness of fentanyl’s dangers is still limited. Targeted, culturally appropriate educational materials can inform the public about the risks of using drugs with unknown amounts of fentanyl and provide information on preventing overdose and obtaining treatment.

If you use illegal drugs or love someone who does, get some harm reduction tools and be prepared to respond to an overdose

If you use drugs yourself: Never use alone. If you overdose while you’re by yourself, there will be no way to get you the help you need.

If you need to use drugs but don’t have anyone you feel comfortable asking to sit with you, call the Never Use Alone hotline. They will stay on the phone with you while you use, and if you become unresponsive, they’ll notify emergency services. This hotline has saved countless lives, without shame or judgment.

Always test your drugs before using. Potency can vary, even among pills or portions of the same batch. And keep naloxone readily available in case a loved one needs to resuscitate you.

If you love someone who uses drugs: Let them know you want to help them stay safe. Offer to be with them when they need to use. Carry naloxone and fentanyl test strips. Visit Laced & Lethal to learn what you can do to protect yourself and your family. 

And be prepared to respond to an overdose through easy online trainings, like the ones offered by End Overdose.

What is Shatterproof  doing to address the fentanyl crisis?

We are exploring new lines of work to tackle this issue, building off our 2019 report The Fentanyl Epidemic: State Initiatives To Reduce Overdose Deaths.

We are working with state and federal leaders to:

  • Expand access to naloxone and fentanyl-testing strips
  • Ensure real-time overdose monitoring through data collection and reporting
  • Increase collaboration between the public health and public safety sectors. We need all hands on deck to reduce overdose deaths. 
  • Increase funding for effective, evidence-based youth prevention programs at the community level and invest in fentanyl-specific public awareness campaigns. 

How can I help?

There are many ways we can all help address the fentanyl crisis. First, naloxone can reverse overdoses. Anyone can be trained to administer naloxone and it is available in most states without a prescription. Learn how naloxone works, where to get it, and how to use it to save a life. Second, talk to the young people in your life. The DEA’s One Pill Can Kill campaign has information and resources on counterfeit pills. Third, you can help by giving a gift.

Fentanyl can be deadly. But overdoses don’t have to be. By knowing the facts, the risks, and the solutions, we can all help turn the tide and save lives.

With your help, we can empower change.

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