Fentanyl awareness events start this week

ESCANABA — A doctor from OSF St. Francis Hospital has taken the initiative to organize fentanyl awareness events that will be held at three area schools in April. Escanaba, Gladstone and Manistique will host panels of participants to educate the public on the rise of the drug, which can be lethal, and how to administer an antidote in the case of an overdose. Presentations are open to the public.

“I have been treating substance use disorder at OSF Medical Group for the past five years and have seen a shift in what is being used illicitly,” said Mary Frances Myrick (Francie), MD. “The synthetic fentanyl being made into fake pills is a crisis in our country and now in our community.”

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid, that, according to the DEA, is 100 times more potent than morphine and 50 times more potent than heroin as an analgesic (pain reliever). It is approved for pharmaceutical use by the FDA, but illicitly manufactured fentanyl is being sold not just as powder and liquid, but also in counterfeit pills meant to mimic other drugs. It is the latter form to which Dr. Myrick refers.

Generally, adolescents are more likely to experiment with pharmaceutical drugs — or pills that look like them — than other more stigmatized drugs.

“Kids are accessing fake pills on the internet and social media,” said Dr. Myrick. “They may be seeking a single dose of Xanax, Adderall or Percocet and unknowingly get a pill that looks like the real thing but (contains) fentanyl.”

The three upcoming events are to inform students, parents, teachers, and community members of the dangers of fentanyl, how it is circulating, and how to recognize and treat an opioid overdose. Participating alongside Dr. Myrick are the Public Health Department of Delta and Menominee Counties, school health educators, and the Public Safety Departments of Manistique, Gladstone, and Escanaba.

Times and locations of the three fentanyl awareness events are as follows:

– Manistique High School auditorium on Tuesday, April 16 at 6 p.m.

– Gladstone High School auditorium on Wednesday April 17 at 6 p.m.

– Escanaba High School Library on Monday, April 22 at 5 p.m.


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