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Fentanyl-laced drugs may pose risk to Tulane students

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Elana Bush | Photography Editor

“When I got to campus, we were gonna pick up some bars from a dealer, and we found out they were laced with fentanyl.”

This is Jeff*, a Tulane freshman from New Jersey talking about his first experience with laced drugs on campus. After a moment of consideration, he shrugs and adds: “That was pretty scary.”

Rates of death for fentanyl use are at an all time high. Created in 1960 as a synthetic pain reliever, fentanyl is approximately 40-50 times more powerful than heroin. Only a miniscule dose is needed to kill you. In May, the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that fentanyl and other synthetic opioids were responsible for nearly half of opioid related deaths in 2016.

The danger comes from the recent practice of dealers and suppliers to lace fentanyl into other drugs to give it an added “kick.” Since fentanyl is inexpensive and comparatively easy to make, dealers have found this much more economical than using “pure” coke or xanax.

A bag of white powder could contain anything. And thanks to easily available pill-stamping machines, what appears to be prescription pills, like Jeff’s xanax, contain even more synthetic opioids like fentanyl.

Dr. Dave Campbell, a surgeon who testified on the opioid epidemic before Congress, summed up the problem recreational drug users face.

“It’s Russian Roulette,” Campbell said. “You have no idea what’s in the pill, what it’s laced with and what it might do to you.”

Concerned over the rising national crises, some student organizations are taking action on campus. One of these organizations is Students for Sensible Drug Policy, which is planning an event for Oct. 24 where they will hand out fentanyl testing strips to whoever wants to use them before Voodoo Music + Arts Experience.

“The benefit of fentanyl drug testing strips is the ability to know what is going into your body,” Gerhardt Weiss, a council member for SSDP, said. “We view it as harm reduction. We in no way are encouraging people to do drugs … It is our job to make sure they have the most amount of information that they can.”

“The benefit of fentanyl drug testing strips is the ability to know what is going into your body. We view it as harm reduction. We in no way are encouraging people to do drugs ... It is our job to make sure they have the most amount of information that they can.” Gerhardt Weiss

The strips, which are about $2 and can be purchased online, are easy to use, disposable and can test accurately for the presence of fentanyl in a variety of drugs.

With the dawn of the internet, some Tulane students say they feel more comfortable about taking drugs after educating themselves on that substance.

“I think [the risk is] very real,” Jeff said. “It’s something that has to be considered every time you pick up [a drug] — you have to know what you’re doing before you do it.”

According to Weiss, however, the real risk is not drug education, or lack thereof. Users may feel like they know about a drug in a broad sense, but there is no way of knowing the origins or makeup of the specific drug they recieve.

“What you know about a drug and what you know about the drug you have can be very different,” Weiss said.

According to Ethan*, a freshman from Baltimore, drug users at Tulane are sometimes simply indifferent.

“I was at someone’s room one time, and they were doing coke, and I’m pretty sure they knew it was laced, but they didn’t care,” he said.

Since coming to Tulane, Ethan said he has tried multiple new psychedelics including LSD, psilocybin mushrooms and MDMA, also known as ecstasy or molly. The risk that some of these drugs could be laced with fentanyl, he said, does not particularly worry him.

“It’s never happened to me, so I’m not on super high alert,” he said.

Weiss said he is concerned about the general drug user’s lack of concern.

“Most things that you get are labeled molly or ecstasy — not MDMA,” Weiss, said. “I’ve never seen a single one of them be real MDMA and I’ve seen quite a few of them contain meth and other types of bath salts. And I don’t think that Tulane students know that.”

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1 Comment

One Response to “Fentanyl-laced drugs may pose risk to Tulane students”

  1. Freshman Parent on October 4th, 2018 6:56 pm

    First the article on the sophomore prostitute ( in the last volume)… now this, on a freshman hard drug solicitor/ user. This is absolutely frightening. The cavalier attitude to these high-risk illegal and deadly activities is beyond disturbing. Instead of writing about it, you need campus-wide emergency intervention. I am a nervous wreck to have a freshman at this school. Especially one who has worked so hard to get there. This is horrific. These students are in school less than 2 months and they are doing this? Surely this can’t be the norm. Jeff from New Jersey, get the help you need or leave Tulane. You are a drug user and solicitor and there is no place for you on this campus, or anywhere other than rehab.

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Fentanyl-laced drugs may pose risk to Tulane students