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Deadly Pills in the Northland: Time to Take Action

Law enforcement in our area are seeing deaths among Northland teens and young adults linked to pills that appear to be prescription pills or legitimate medicines. These illegal pills are laced with the deadly drug fentanyl and it’s impossible to tell which ones are counterfeit. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is up to 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine. Just a few grains of sand worth of fentanyl can be fatal. These pills are being sold on the black market and there is no regulation of any kind. These teeny-tiny pills look harmless, but they’re far from it. They are here — in our Northland counties, neighborhoods and schools.

DEA lab tests reveal that 7 out of every 10 pills with fentanyl contain a potentially lethal dose.

Image Source: Kansas City Police Department

Before you think, “but not my child,” pause for a moment. The reasons teens might come across or seek out these pills are very real. Some teens seek help for sleep. Some think they will perform better in athletics or school. Some just want to take the edge off. Other teens seek out pills because they think it will help them with stress and pain. The anxiety and depression teens are feeling is tough. Some seek thrill and are willing to take the risk. They may think: “It’s medicine so it can’t be harmful, right?”  If our kids are not warned, they may think pills are the solution. Many of these deadly counterfeit pills are being sold over Snapchat and other apps popular with teens. To teens these are seemingly harmless transactions for a “pain pill” or something they believe to be Oxycodone, Percocet, Xanax or Adderall. But they could lead and have led to unimaginably tragic consequences.

Two milligrams of fentanyl, a lethal amount for most adults. (Photo from

Local law enforcement has pulled together a drug task force to address supply and track down those that sell these incredibly dangerous pills. The DEA is working these cases too and urging the media to get the word out. Treatment agencies are overwhelmed with the severity and doing everything they can to provide the support to those who are struggling with addiction.

Two milligrams of fentanyl, a lethal amount for most adults. (Photo from

Our goal at Parent Up is to support parents and guardians in their efforts to keep their kids from taking a fake or non-prescribed prescription pill or using other drugs.

Here are the tips we put out every 6 months or so, written by Kim Downs, a local parent and social worker. We love her take:

“As a parent, I urge you to take this growing issue seriously, and have specific conversations about it in your house. As a school social worker, I am hearing about this over and over. It is happening here and it is real.

Not sure what to say? Emphasize to your kids to never, ever take a pill from anyone or anywhere that isn’t prescribed to them by a doctor or out of its original container. Too many teens have the false perception that “medicine is safe, medicine can’t hurt me.” As caring adults, parents, and guardians, it falls to us to let our teens know the very real dangers of misusing prescription pills. Let your kids know where you stand. 

Let them know you will help them if they are seeking relief from anxiety or depression. Discuss the steps to legally and safely obtain appropriate medications from a doctor, if needed. Be firm that self-prescribing can be deadly, and that your child should never take any pills not prescribed to them by a doctor. Assure your child that their mental well-being is a priority and then make a plan to get help together. They need to hear from caring adults that they have options for relief other than taking matters into their own hands.

Practice what to say if they are offered something. These roleplays let your child know you support them and help give them confidence if a situation arises where they need to say “no.” You can also work with your teen to come up with a code word to text you if they feel like they need your help to get out of an unsafe situation.

They might groan at you. Have these conversations anyway.”

Kim Downs, local parent and social worker

Song for Charlie is a family-run nonprofit charity dedicated to raising awareness about ‘fentapills’ — fake pills made of fentanyl that are poisoning our teens. recommends you say this to your teen:
“You have to assume that any “prescription” pill you buy outside of normal channels is fake, and very possibly deadly. NO RANDOM PILLS!” (They made this short video that you can use in your discussion with your teen.)

Image source: Song For Charlie (

Download and share Parent Up’s one page fentanyl handout to keep our teens safe!

Download and share our one page handout for parents of younger children to keep them safe now and in the future!

Here’s some other resources we think are really helpful too: 

Thank you for taking action today. Give this article a share and help protect area kids.

– The Parent Up Team

Note: This post was originally published on November 18, 2021, but has been updated several times since to reflect more recent local conditions and resources.

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