WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – The United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) recognizes Aug. 21 as National Fentanyl Prevention and Awareness Day. In Sedgwick County, the sheriff’s office has been implementing an education campaign targeting youth and their parents.

“Any of the prescription drugs that kids might get a hold of, you can consider all those fake now, and what I mean by fake is that they possess fentanyl,” Sheriff Jeff Easter said. “A lot of kids are trying to experiment with something, and some friend of theirs says, hey, try this, and they have no idea where it came from, and almost everything we’re encountering now has fentanyl in it.”

The campaign includes targeted ads on social media at school districts across Sedgwick County. When students at school get on platforms such as Snapchat or Twitter, videos will pop up made by YEEP explaining how you can assume every pill off the street is laced with fentanyl.

“Because when you’re talking about, you know, Percocet that kids have been experimenting with, those no longer exist. They are all fentanyl pills,” Sheriff Easter said. “And these kids don’t know that, and so they didn’t buy that pill and take that pill expecting to die.”

There are also ads targeted toward parents on platforms such as Hulu and Spotify with links to resources and websites with information.

Sheriff Easter says by targeting youth, they can change behavior early in a very drug-addicted society. Five juveniles in Sedgwick County died in 2022 because of fentanyl.

He says the ultimate goal is to reduce the amount of fentanyl poisonings and deaths.

The manager of the detox and sober unit at the Substance Abuse Center of Kansas, Brian Jarman, says he has seen the need for the center increase. He says that is because of two main factors, one being that the withdrawal from fentanyl is bad.

“Fentanyl use has been crushing people,” Jarman said. “It’s easy to overdose, especially if you don’t know that you’re using it, and like I said, the withdrawal from it is absolutely crippling. You think about the worst flu that you’ve ever experienced. Multiply that by 1,000.” 

The other reason for the increase is that people don’t know fentanyl is in the drug they’re using.

“They’re putting fentanyl in every other drug, and so I have to worry about, you know, people that are smoking pot if they’re accidentally smoking fentanyl, like people that are using meth if they’re accidentally using fentanyl,” Jarman said.

He says getting help is completely safe and confidential.

“Don’t ever worry about the embarrassment of this,” Jarman said. “We’re all struggling with something. We all have hang-ups and whatever. Come in, get your problems taken care of. If you don’t quit using, you run the risk of overdose, you run the risk of hurting your family, run the risk of additional health-related problems.”