WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – It is like a race car gaining speed. Fentanyl is on the rise nationwide. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration declared the first-ever National Fentanyl Awareness Day on May 10.

The synthetic opioid is approximately 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more powerful than morphine.

The DEA says fentanyl is highly addictive, and drug traffickers use it to create repeat customers.

Sedgwick County Sheriff Jeff Easter also sees the problem, and he is acting with a “One Pill Can Kill” campaign.

DEA website on One Pill Can Kill | KSN.com coverage on One Pill Can Kill

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 80-100 times stronger than morphine. Pharmaceutical fentanyl was developed for pain management treatment of cancer patients, applied in a patch on the skin. Because of its powerful opioid properties, Fentanyl is also diverted for abuse. Fentanyl is added to heroin to increase its potency, or be disguised as highly potent heroin. Many users believe that they are purchasing heroin and actually don’t know that they are purchasing fentanyl – which often results in overdose deaths. Clandestinely-produced fentanyl is primarily manufactured in Mexico

United States Drug Enforcement Administration


Fentanyl pills (Courtesy: DEA)

“We started seeing an increase in fentanyl overdoses,” Easter said. “We had 128 deaths in 2018, 139 in 2019, 194 in 2020, and then 263 in 2021.”

The sheriff says it is easy to get, cheap, and kids could be an easy target.

“This is not an experimental drug. It is something you can take. It will kill you,” the sheriff said.

While law enforcement and schools do their best to raise awareness in children, Easter says parents need to get involved, too.

“They live in your home, you see pills laying around or aluminum foil that has burnt residue on it, you need to have that talk with your kid,” Easter said.

Sheriff Jeff Easter (Courtesy: Sedgwick County)

The numbers are eye-opening. Fentanyl-related drug overdose deaths doubled from 2020 to 2021, with no signs of stopping.

“Oh yeah, we're on trend to beat last year's numbers, unfortunately,” Easter said.

A goal he is not looking to accomplish.

“It's never really been listened to before, but we didn't have a lot of drugs here that could kill you by taking one pill. We do now,” Easter said.

The sheriff says they are only seizing a tenth of the fentanyl-laced pills on the streets.

It takes about three to six months to get a toxicology report back after autopsies, so updates for overdose-related deaths in 2022 are still on hold.

Here is where you can find help.