The Frightening Rise Of Fentapills – What Students Need To Know About The Deadly Threat of Counterfeit Prescription Pills

The Frightening Rise Of Fentapills – What Students Need To Know About The Deadly Threat of Counterfeit Prescription Pills

Charlie Ternan was 22-years-old and just three-weeks shy of his college graduation when he died of fentanyl poisoning in May 2020.  The pill he got online turned out to be a fake painkiller made of the dangerous opioid – a fentapill. Since Charlie’s death, his parents, Mary and Ed Ternan, have been researching fake pills and fentanyl and have formed a nonprofit, Song For Charlie, dedicated to warning young people about this growing danger.

Unfortunately, Charlie’s story is one of ten-thousand cases of lethal poisoning cases throughout the U.S. in 2020. As college students struggle to cope with COVID-related stress, drug dealers are taking advantage of the situation. Drug dealers are now using popular apps like Snapchat to sell “fentapills” to thousands of unsuspecting students.

It should be mandatory that parents and students learn about the dangers of ordering pills online. Students who are struggling with mental health issues should first contact professional resources either on or off-campus. Above all, students should never trust medications sold on the Web. 

What Are Fentapills? — Crucial Info For Parents & Students

As the name suggests, fentapills are counterfeit drugs that are made of the highly dangerous opioid fentanyl. While fentapills look exactly like standard prescriptions, they are 100 percent fake—and quite often deadly. 

Police units report that the most common fentapill looks like a blue 30-milligram dose of oxycodone with the label M-30. However, it’s also quite common to find fentapills designed to look like Xanax, Hydrocodone, or Percocet. 

Honestly, any medication sold online could potentially be a fentapill. For this reason, students should always get their prescriptions from a trusted medical professional. 

Fentanyl vs. Heroin — Just How Deadly Are Fentapills?

Drug dealers use fentanyl for one reason–it’s dirt cheap. According to the NIH, fentanyl is between 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. Usually, the fentapills that most students buy online are marketed as anti-anxiety or pain medications. 

Shocking new research out of New Hampshire’s Police Forensic Laboratory shows just how deadly fentanyl is. According to this lab’s findings, you only need 3 milligrams of fentanyl to trigger an overdose in an adult. For perspective, a common heroin overdose is around 30 milligrams. 

Bottom line: students cannot trust any pill they see advertised online. If a prescription didn’t come from a licensed doctor, students should assume it’s fake.

How Big Is the Fentapill Epidemic?

Although DEA officers first noticed fentapill overdoses in 2016, they have reported a dramatic uptick during the COVID-19 pandemic. For instance, LAPD now says that over half of all drug deaths in LA County are related to fentanyl with over a million fentapills seized last year in LA County alone. In Minnesota, DEA agents also seized at least 46,000 fake prescription pills in 2020. 

One of the main ways drug dealers reach out to students is through social media.This was the case with talk show host Dr. Laura Berman’s now-deceased son Samuel, who recently shared her family’s tragedy in this recent interview on “The Today Show”

Dr. Berman now warns parents to be aware that students’ social media accounts are a regular source of drug dealers trolling for victims. Despite Samuel’s regular drug screenings for marijuana, Berman didn’t know what her son was getting into. According to Berman’s Instagram page, Samuel ordered what he thought were anti-anxiety pills via Snapchat. Toxicology reports reveal Samuel’s pills had a significant amount of fentanyl. As Berman wrote on Instagram: “[Samuel] got the drugs delivered to the house. Parents should pay attention to Snapchat (which is one way)…they get them.” 

Representatives at Snapchat say they are now working with local authorities to get to the bottom of this particular case. While Snapchat says it works hard to prevent drug trafficking, it also encourages app users to be proactive and report any suspicious activity. 

What’s the Solution To the Fentapill Epidemic? Education First! 

Today, one of the best things families can do is to first talk to their kids and raise awareness of the fentapill epidemic. In fact, that’s exactly what Charlie Ternan’s parents are now doing to help students nationwide.

In honor of their son, Mary and Ed Ternan created the nonprofit, Song For Charlie, to educate other families on the dangers of fentapills. When asked about the organization, Ed Ternan told reporters he started Song For Charlie to “[identify] a problem that’s bigger than we are, that we can kind of sink our teeth in, and see if we can make some small impact.” 

On the Song For Charlie website, parents can learn crucial information about fentapills and how to avoid them. This nonprofit also shares college student health tips to help young people manage stress without resorting to self-medication. Parents should also encourage their students to speak with mental health professionals if they’re experiencing excessive stress. 

Most importantly, students should never order prescription medications online, period! If students feel they need medication, they should speak with a professional doctor. 

The above warning about fentapill is critical for parents and students to keep in mind and it’s also important for them to be prepared for any emergency by downloading the Umergency health and safety app for college families. Among its key features are a number of emergency hotlines including the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, Poison Control, and RAINN (National Sexual Assault Hotline).