SAN ANTONIO – At first glance, the pills look like candy. However, inside is a substance 100 times more potent than morphine and 50 times more potent than heroin.
Fentanyl is a rising crisis in our country, causing the highest number of overdose deaths and sending numbers to record levels.
People buying drugs off the street or through friends may not request fentanyl specifically, but what they’re really getting is laced with the deadly drug, and there’s no telling how much.
“A lot of these street marketed drugs are being sold as Xanax or Valium or Ativan,” said Jody Guerra, a licensed chemical dependency counselor.
Guerra is also the Business Development Director for Gallus Medical Detox Center in San Antonio.
Gallus is a state-of-the-art stand-alone facility providing high acute medical detox. They also coordinate to help patients transition from detox to other treatment centers and have a portal spreading awareness about drug trends.
Guerra wants to educate as many people as possible on the dangers of fentanyl, which he often sees in detox centers.
“Many times during the admissions process, when we’re going through the questionnaire about drug use, many of them would say, ‘No, I’ve never done fentanyl,’ only to find out once they get here and we test them that they have fentanyl in their system. It’s a big shock,” Guerra said.
That’s the fear with a new trend -- rainbow fentanyl. Kids think they’re taking Xanax or Adderall, but it’s laced or cut with Fentanyl.
“It is colored in nature and that, many believe, is appealing to young people and appealing to potentially kids,” Guerra said.
He said he hasn’t seen or heard of it in San Antonio yet, but he knows it’s spreading around the country and will soon show up locally.
Fentanyl, in general, has become a scary reality for Hays County -- located between Austin and New Braunfels.
As KSAT reported a week ago, Hays CISD Superintendent Dr. Eric Wright sent a notice out to the school community, alerting them there had been a third suspected fentanyl overdose death in the past month.
He also wrote, “We are also aware of about a half-dozen cases where Hays CISD students, as young as middle school-aged children, have experienced life-threatening overdoses since the end of last school year and during the summer.”
He continued, “The three deaths have all happened off-campus, but involve students from Lehman and Johnson High Schools. One of the students was 15-years-old and two of them were 17-years-old. The overdose cases have happened both on and off campus and affect all three of our comprehensive high schools – Hays, Johnson, and Lehman.”
Wright then spoke about a Facebook post from the Kyle Police Department outside of Austin, which showed a picture of fake oxycodone pills laced with fentanyl.
The post said, “The presence of pills containing deadly fentanyl has increased in Kyle and the entire region. Kyle PD has responded to at least 16 related overdoses with 7 of those resulting in death in 2022. Many of these overdoses, including some deaths, are teenagers ranging from 14-18 years old.”
In response, the Hays CISD school system is teaming up with local law enforcement to educate families on trends like rainbow fentanyl.
The schools now carry Narcan, a medication that, if given quickly, can reverse an overdose.
There is even a whole section about fentanyl on the district website.
KSAT checked in with a number of San Antonio area school districts, which reported that they hadn’t seen anything like this yet, but they were on alert.
“It’s almost a matter of time before we start realizing it, which gives us the opportunity to start addressing it now,” Guerra said.
Guerra said now is the time to warn your loved ones, especially if you have elementary, middle or high school students.
“Addressing kids at a younger age that we never thought we would have to. But the reality is we need to be talking to our kids as soon as possible,” he said.
The hard truth is that an uncomfortable and difficult conversation now is worth saving their lives down the line.
“I think sometimes the fear is, if I have the conversation, I might be creating part of the problem by introducing the discussion. The reality is they’re learning all kinds of things without your knowledge. We need to tell them the truth,” Guerra said.