Addressing the Youth Opioid & Overdose Crisis
YOR Media Campaign

The rate of teenagers overdosing nationally has tripled in the past two years.

Did you know that most adults with opioid use disorders (OUDs) started using opioids before the age of twenty-five, with one-third of them before the age of eighteen?

As we mentioned in our last newsletter, CAN is in a new partnership phase with the California Youth Opioid Response (YOR CA) and is committed to increasing awareness about fentanyl and opioid overdose prevention to reduce stigma and protect the lives of Californians, especially the children and youth in our communities. This month, we will take a moment to chat about what Opioids and Fentanyl are, the adolescent overdose crisis, and share Opioid Overdose Prevention resources for youth, educators, and parents/guardians/families in our communities.  ​

There are many factors that impact the adolescent overdose crisis. According to YOR CA, the following are factors: 

  • The lack of or limited services, fragmentation of services, funding, and regulatory barriers often prevent the comprehensive interventions youth require and the range of settings that can and should serve as access points for youth.
  • Additionally, capacity for accessible and culturally appropriate, age-appropriate engagement strategies, screening and assessments, linkage to services for all substance use and mental health disorders, family engagement, case management, and recovery support services are needed throughout our communities statewide.
  • Work is yet to be done in engaging health and behavioral health practitioners, as well as school leadership and staff, in an understanding of substance use and related disorders as a chronic disease, harm reduction, medications that can assist treatment, and the complexities of recovery.


What Are Fentanyl & Opioids?

Opioids are a class of drugs that includes the illegal drug heroin as well as power pain relievers available by prescription, such as oxycodone (Oxycontin), hydrocodone (Vicodin), codeine, morphine, fentanyl, methadone, and many others. Learn more.

Fentanyl is a synthetic (made by chemical synthesis) opioid that is a significant contributor to drug overdose deaths. According to the CA Department of Public Health, in 2021, there were nearly 6,000 opioid-related overdose deaths in California.

  • It is extremely potent, up to 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine
  • It can be found in different forms, including pills, powder, and liquid.
  • There are two types of fentanyl: pharmaceutical fentanyl and illicitly manufactured fentanyl (illicit fentanyl). Both are synthetic opioids. Pharmaceutical fentanyl is prescribed by doctors to treat severe pain, such as while in the hospital for and after surgery or for advanced-stage cancer. Illicit fentanyl is distributed through illegal drug markets for its heroin-like effect. Fentanyl mixed with any drug increases the likelihood of a fatal overdose.
  • Fentanyl isn’t like getting addicted to other drugs. Even just trying it once can have fatal consequences. Basically, one pill, the first time you take it, can kill you.

According to the CDC, ​Illicitly manufactured fentanyl (IMF) is available on the drug market in different forms, including liquid and powder. 

  • Fentanyl-laced drugs are hazardous, and many people may be unaware that their drugs are laced with fentanyl.
  • Powdered fentanyl looks just like many other drugs. It is commonly mixed with drugs like heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine and made into pills that are made to resemble other prescription opioids.
  • In its liquid form, IMF can be found in nasal sprays, eye drops, or dropped onto paper like small candies.

Download a PDF Resource with THE FACTS ABOUT FENTANYL 


You can save lives and stop drug overdose by:

Knowing the signs of an overdose:  

  • Falling asleep or losing consciousness 
  • Doesn’t respond to stimuli like shouting, a pinch or sternum rub
  • Slow, weak, or no breathing 
  • Choking or gurgling sounds 
  • Limp body 
  • Cold and/or clammy skin 
  • Discolored skin (especially in lips and nails)  
  • ​​​​Small, constricted “pinpoint pupils” ​

Carrying naloxone. Naloxone is a life-saving medication that can reverse an opioid overdose. Naloxone is safe and easy to use and works almost immediately. It is now available over the counter, without a prescription at pharmacies, convenience stores, grocery stores, and gas stations, as well as online.

Having regular conversations with teens, young people, and loved ones about the risks associated with fentanyl and mixing drugs and how to help respond to an overdose to reduce the stigma around seeking help, treatment, and care.

Sharing treatment resources, like the 24/7 National Helpline— 800-662-HELP (4357).


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