Youth overdose crisis: Fentanyl culprit behind 80% of overdose deaths under 24

As America grapples with a historic number of drug deaths, new research unveils the devastating impact among the country’s young adults. Statista analyzed data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and found that fentanyl is responsible for 80% of overdose deaths under 24. Previous research also shows that fentanyl poisoning is the leading cause of death for Americans ages 18-45.

The question arises: Why is this the case? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains that fentanyl possesses an astounding potency: up to 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine. Moreover, the cost-effectiveness of fentanyl production has prompted illicit drug manufacturers to lace a wide range of substances, from counterfeit Percocet to heroin, with this synthetic opioid.

 ”Guess what? A Xanax never killed anyone, and a Percocet never killed anyone. They do now because they’re fake, and a lot of these young kids, they just don’t know.,” April Babcock said. Babcock lost her son Austen to fentanyl poisoning and is talking with Emily’s Hope on an upcoming Grieving Out Loud podcast episode.

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), fentanyl ingredients are often produced in China and then transported to Mexico. From there, Mexican drug cartels smuggle this illicit substance across the U.S. border.

Federal lawmakers are starting to respond to the crisis. Proposed legislation, the FEND Off Fentanyl Act, would declare fentanyl trafficking a national emergency and impose sanctions on opioid traffickers. For the first time, the U.S. has also charged Chinese companies for trafficking chemicals used to make fentanyl. The indictments come just weeks after the US imposed sanctions on 17 people and entities in China and Mexico, accusing them of facilitating the production of counterfeit fentanyl-laced pills. 

Still, many people who have lost loved ones to fentanyl say authorities are not doing enough. Babcock is trying to get lawmakers’ attention by holding her third annual March on the Capitol in D.C., which is set to take place in September. During the rally, hundreds of families who have lost loved ones to the drug crisis will come together and demand action from the White House.

“People in the United States trafficking fentanyl, when one Sweet’n Low packet, one gram, has the potential to kill up to 500 Americans, they’re mass murderers,” Babcock said.