To save more lives from drug overdose, the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently launched four complementary education campaigns intended to reach young adults ages 18—34 years.
The campaigns provide information about the prevalence and dangers of fentanyl, the risks and consequences of mixing drugs, the life-saving power of naloxone, and the importance of reducing stigma around drug use to support treatment and recovery.
CDC spoke directly with young adults who reported using drugs, as well as peer recovery professionals, to develop the campaigns. Each campaign includes new resources on all four topics to help people make informed decisions, get the help they need, and ultimately reduce the rise in drug overdoses and overdose deaths.
Illegal drugs are more potent and potentially lethal than ever before as many can be mixed or laced with illicitly made fentanyl without a person’s knowledge. Fentanyl, an extremely powerful synthetic opioid that is up to 100 times stronger than morphine, and other synthetic opioids contribute to most opioid-involved overdose deaths.
Illicitly made fentanyl is increasingly found in counterfeit prescription medications, heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, and other illicit drugs. It is nearly impossible to tell if drugs have been laced with fentanyl without the use of because it cannot be seen, smelled, or tasted.
Naloxone is a life-saving medicine that can reverse an opioid overdose. Often given as a nasal spray, naloxone can restore normal breathing to a person whose breathing has slowed or stopped due to opioids, including fentanyl, if given in time. Anyone can carry naloxone, give it to someone experiencing an overdose, and potentially save a life.
The drug is available in all 50 states and Washington, DC, and is available at many local pharmacies without a prescription. Good Samaritan laws are in place to protect those who are overdosing and anyone assisting them in an emergency from arrest, charges, or a combination of these.
Drug overdoses have claimed nearly 900,000 lives in the United States in the past 20 years. Recent reports show that drug overdose deaths accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic, outpacing overdose death rates from any previous year. Illicitly manufactured fentanyl was the main driver of the near 30% increase in overdose deaths. By sharing the campaigns and related resources with young people 18-34 who use drugs, we are taking an important step to stop drug overdoses and save lives.