This year, our country and our state have seen a surge in deaths related to fake pills made with fentanyl. In August, the DEA released a media alert, and just a few days ago authorities made a significant bust at Los Angeles International Airport (NPR article covering the story), where about 12,000 pills were discovered in candy boxes.

This is an extremely deadly drug – up to 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine. Users who purchase the drug often believe they are purchasing OxyContin, Percoset or Xanax. However, the synthetic drug fentanyl is cheaper for dealers to create, in addition to being stronger and more deadly. Because fentanyl is odorless, tasteless, and colorless, users (including many teens), don’t know what they’re getting.

To be blunt: the amount of fentanyl it takes to overdose and die is equivalent to about two grains of salt. It takes one pill to kill, and it is impossible to tell that a pill is made of fentanyl by sight, smell, or taste.

Though pills are often blue, they come in many colors. “M30” is often stamped on the pill. The current tablets in circulation are very well made – often indistinguishable from real medications made by pharmaceutical companies. However, as the fentanyl pills are made by drug dealers, there is no quality control and two pills from the same batch may have drastically different levels of the drug.

We’re sending this message today to assure our community that district officials are aware of this issue and watchful in our buildings. Because of their candy-like appearance, we encourage similar vigilance from parents. In addition to the watchful vigilance described above, the district has made Narcan, an emergency opioid overdose treatment, available for emergency use in several of our school buildings.

Parents are encouraged to be mindful of their children’s candy consumption around Halloween, and watchful for any colorful pills or powders coming in unmarked, resealed, or 3rd party/unofficial packaging. While earlier in this message we described that it is not possible to tell the difference between a fentanyl pill and its pharmaceutical equivalent, the pills are observably different from Skittles, M&M’s, and other similar candies.

It is not our intent to create fear around this holiday, but rather to share the news of this ongoing crisis which has already taken the lives of a number of young people around the state. We encourage families to discuss this issue with their children. This resource from Drug Free Kids Canada is a great guide for having age-appropriate conversations on this difficult topic.