Tarrant County records showed 123 deaths connected to the drug through November, despite receiving an enormous amount of attention this year from families of victims, law enforcement, and drug awareness organizations. The death count this year is a nearly 30% increase from 2020.
According to CDC data analyzed by opioid awareness group Families Against Fentanyl, the drug has become the leading cause of death in the country for Americans between 18 and 45 within the last year. It climbed to the top, overtaking suicide and car accidents.
On Wednesday, December 22, the Department of Justice announced $300 million in grants to support abuse and treatment programs in response to the rise in overdoses.
According to Dr. Artee Gandhi, a pain management specialist at Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth, there has been “maybe a little” progress in public awareness. “But obviously not enough,” she said. “Because the overdose rates are still increasing, and the deaths are still increasing, and young adults are still getting access to opioids.”
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has also witnessed a rise in the presence of fentanyl. Within the past year, the agency seized more than 11,000 pounds of the drug in the form of fake pills, more than double the previous two years combined.
Fake pills that resemble Adderall and Ritalin have been circulating on social media and among groups of younger children, according to the DEA.
“It really is just a matter of thinking. Adolescence, right?” said Dr. Gandhi. “They experiment. They do things. They don’t have the proper judgment to think this is not a good idea.”
Dr. Gandhi says that access to substance abuse programs, continued awareness education, and attention to eliminating drug access via social media will be key to attempting to slow down the trend.