MCPS parents urged to learn about fentanyl to reduce overdoses

Parents with students in Montgomery County Public Schools are being urged to educate themselves about the dangers of drug use, specifically fentanyl, because it’s responsible for more than 70% of all overdoses in the Maryland county.

In a letter to the school community, MCPS Medical Officer Dr. Patricia Kapunan said, “In 2021, over 70% of all overdoses in Montgomery County were fentanyl related including substances laced with fentanyl or substances that look like something else (e.g., Xanax, Adderall, Percocet, or oxycodone) but had fentanyl in them.”

Kapunan said parents can educate themselves about fentanyl, which is 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine. Small amounts of the synthetic opioid can kill someone.

“The type of fentanyl driving overdose deaths is illegally made and sold in the form of powder, pills, liquid, or nasal sprays. Other drug products like marijuana, cocaine, heroin or illegally sold pills thought to be prescription medicine may be laced with illicit fentanyl, without the knowledge of the user,” Kapunan said.

She said parents need to recognize the signs of substance abuse and mental health problems, and should know how to use Naloxone, commonly known as Narcan, an emergency medication that works to instantly reduce opioid overdoses.

Children are taking drugs for a number of reasons, Kapunan said. Peer pressure and experimentation can lead further problems with drugs.

“Youth struggling with mental health symptoms, pain, or already using other drugs may be more likely to experiment or have problems related to substance use. With fentanyl, it is important to know that individuals may not even know they are taking it, as it is often incorporated into other substances,” she said.

Drugs sold illegally, such as marijuana, cocaine, heroin or illegally sold pills believed to be prescription medicines, may be laced with fentanyl. Traffickers may use fentanyl as way to increase a drug’s potency, and then promote turn around and promote that drug through social media.


Colleen Kelleher

Colleen Kelleher is an award-winning journalist who has been with WTOP since 1996. Kelleher joined WTOP as the afternoon radio writer and night and weekend editor and made the move to in 2001. Now she works early mornings as the site's Senior Digital Editor.

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