GREAT FALLS - Health officials report there were at least eight fatal drug overdoses due to fentanyl across Montana between May 22 and June 1.
Fentanyl is an opioid pain drug that is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine.
While it's medically approved for managing severe and chronic pain, most cases of fentanyl deaths have been linked to illicitly manufactured fentanyl. Fentanyl is so potent and potentially lethal that first responders are cautioned to wear gloves to avoid touching the drug.
In response, two School Resource Officers from the Great Falls Police Department created a PSA to warn kids and teens about this potent drug, as summer break is underway.
"The reason that we made the PSA was a request of one of the captains to get information out to the kids before they went on summer break, and he wanted us to just talk to the kids in the classroom about it, and I was like, there's no way we are going to hit all of the kids in the classrooms in high school, middle school, and sixth grade before the school year, so I said, why don't we just make a video," said Detective Aaron McAdam.
The video stated that in Great Falls alone, there have been reported 40 overdoses as well as four fatalities in Great Falls in 2022, alarming health officials and law enforcement.
Detective Kristi Kinsey said what's even scarier to her is the number of kids vaping in schools.
"They're at that experimental age, they don't know that can possibly be laced with fentanyl, and every time I get a kid in my office that's found with a vape, I tell him, 'hey, did you know this, did you know this can have potentially deadly consequences,' just to have them think about that stuff, that they normally wouldn't consider.," Kinsey said.
According to the Montana Department of Public Health & Human Services, from 2019 to 2021:
- The percentage of middle school students in Montana who have ever tried vaping went from 28.2% to 24.0%
- The percentage of middle school students who currently use e-cigarettes (at least once in the past 30 days) went from 16.2% to 11.5%
Health officials and law enforcement urge parents to educate their kids on the dangers of fentanyl and any sort of addictive drug and encourage community members to do some research on the harmful effects.