Fentanyl: The deadliest high

Sandra ClarkOur Town Health

Charme Allen says 224 people died from suspected drug overdose in Knox County in the 252 days from Jan. 1 to Sept. 9, 2020. Allen, the district attorney general who updates her website with each new death, is showing six so far in September.


The deadliest drug is fentanyl, a synthetic opioid used for pain relief. According to the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control (CDC), it is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine and is often illegally made and sold on the streets disguised as other drugs. A dose as small as two milligrams, roughly equivalent to the weight of four grains of sand, is considered lethal to the average person.

While the use of fentanyl has increased, awareness of the drug has not, Allen says.

So, the Tennessee District Attorneys General Conference is launching a statewide awareness effort: “Fentanyl: The Deadliest High.”

District attorneys conducted focus groups with middle and high schoolers across the state to determine the awareness level of fentanyl and its dangers. Findings from these focus groups shaped the approach for the awareness effort, which is primarily directed toward 13- to 18-year-old Tennesseans.

“In our research, we discovered a lack of education around the dangers and prevalence of fentanyl and opioids in general,” said Guy Jones, executive director of conference. “Our youth are our future. … We want this effort to be the start of the end of fentanyl and deadly drug abuse in Tennessee, and we must work together to make this goal a reality.”

Allen added: “We are doing everything we can to keep dangerous drugs out of Knox County. “Oftentimes, people aren’t even aware they are using fentanyl, which is why it can be so dangerous. Raising awareness about this deadly drug can save lives in our community.”

The awareness effort will heavily utilize social media to reach students across the state and disseminate the message of the deadly nature of fentanyl, especially with the risks associated with street drug usage.

Sean McDermott of the attorney general’s office contributed to this report.

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