Program brings message of dangers of fentanyl

R. R. Branstrom | Daily Press Public Safety Officer Mallory Nelson points to a magnified image of a lethal quantity of fentanyl resting on the tip of a sharpened pencil. 2mg is enough to kill.

ESCANABA — With the aid of the health department and law enforcement, a local doctor has been holding informational seminars about the reality and dangers of fentanyl, which is present in the community and has caused deadly overdoses. Because of its potency, the illegally manufactured opioid is found not only in other illicit drugs, but is also used as in ingredient in counterfeit prescription pills.

The presentation was already delivered in Manistique and Gladstone, but will come to Escanaba in Monday. Attendees are provided with Narcan and instructed on how to use it.

Dr. Mary Myrick said that fentanyl is extremely addictive, and since it is so strong and the amount can vary per pill, it’s impossible to know which one is going to contain the lethal dose.

“It’s like a Russian roulette, which time in the chamber you could have the bullet,” she said.

“So that’s the problem. But because of that potency, people get physically addicted very, very quickly, more so than Percocet and Vicodin. … It’s stronger than anything else we’ve ever seen.”

To quash unbased fears, speakers said that it is safe to trust prescription medication prescribed by a doctor and obtained from a pharmacy.

Likewise, the cannabis dispensaries are also regulated, said the doctor, putting to rest another question. She said that rumors of fentanyl-laced weed, when investigated, have been unsubstantiated, and “certainly, any legal marijuana shop in Michigan is not going to have fentanyl.”

However, pills disguised as those often abused — like Adderall, Oxycontin, Xanax, and others — are widely circulated. They are being sold online and distributed by local drug dealers.

The DEA reported that, by December of 2022, lab testing showed that 60% of fentanyl-laced pills contained a potentially lethal dose (2 mg). In 2023, they seized more than 79 million fentanyl-laced fake pills.

Dr. Myrick; Public Safety Officer Mallory Nelson, who sometimes works in the schools; and Mary Claire Massi-Lee, Substance Abuse Services Director for the Department of Public Health said that the drug is here in our community and that everyone should have and know how to administer naloxone (brand name Narcan), which comes as a nasal spray.

Naloxone essentially reverses the effect of an overdose by binding to opioid receptors. It is to be used if a person is unresponsive, with the aim just to get them breathing again until an ambulance can arrive. It is temporary, and with the potency of fentanyl, one dose of the spray is not always enough, so calling 911 is still important. Thanks to the Good Samaritan law that went into effect in Michigan in 2017, neither the person who overdosed or a 911 caller who may have been also using is at risk of being arrested for personal possession drug charges.

There is no evidence that shows naloxone has any ill effects if used in a mistaken case — for example, if a person is having a diabetic emergency — so use is recommend if there’s even a suspicion that an opioid may involved.

Narcan may be obtained for free, no questions asked, from a vending machine in the Delta County Sheriff’s Office at 2800 College Ave. in Escanaba or from the Public Health Department, which has locations at 2920 College Ave. in Escanaba and 909 10th Ave. in Menominee.

Another presentation will be given in the Escanaba High School library at 5 p.m. on Monday, April 22. Everyone is welcome.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *

Starting at $2.99/week.

Subscribe Today