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What’s Happening? 

Deaths from fake pills with fentanyl are surging in every state across the country. Drug deaths are no longer impacting just people fighting the disease of addiction. Due to the introduction of fentanyl into our nation's illicit drug supply, young students, some as young as 13, are dying from fentanyl-related poisonings. Unknowing teens think they are getting familiar prescription medicines, but instead are getting the much more powerful fentanyl and losing their lives— teenagers who had hopes and dreams and plans, and who deserved to have long, full lives. 

Teens are purchasing what they think are OxyContin, Percocet or Xanax pills via social media, but drug dealers are making these fake pills with the cheaper, stronger and more deadly synthetic drug called fentanyl to increase their profits. Fentanyl is up to 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine. Fentanyl is odorless, tasteless and colorless. Teens never know what they’re getting. One pill can kill them. One pill.

The pills are nicknamed “Blues” for their common color (though they can come in other colors) or “M30s” for the stamp on the pills. The tablets are so well made that even experienced users say that they can’t tell the difference between a counterfeit pill and a pill manufactured by a pharmaceutical company.

To be clear, these are not pharmaceutical-grade painkillers; they are pills made by drug dealers, mostly outside the country. There is no quality control. Pills in the same batch can have wildly varying levels of fentanyl. The amount of fentanyl it takes to overdose and die is equivalent to two grains of sand.


In September 2021, the DEA issued its first safety alert in six years to warn Americans of “the alarming increase in the lethality and availability of fake prescription pills containing fentanyl and methamphetamine.” The DEA has seized counterfeit pills in every state in unprecedented quantities. Read more to learn about our nation’s fake pill crisis.

The DEA points to advertisements on social media platforms like Snapchat, Tiktok, and Instagram. Officials say that young people find pills especially appealing because they’re cheap, more socially acceptable than meth or heroin and don’t have a tell-tale smell like alcohol or marijuana.


Youth deaths from fake pills is not a problem that can be fixed by parents or schools alone; it is a problem communities need to tackle together: parents, students, social media companies, law enforcement, health care professionals, schools, and more all need to create a safe and healthy environment for their kids. This toolkit is intended to help schools and other similar youth organizations to educate their communities about the dangers of fake prescription pills.


FREE middle and high school learning material is available through either link below. The Classroom Lesson Materials come from several different sources. The Fake & Fatal material was developed by teachers in the Beaverton School District (Oregon) using best known practices. The lessons were developed to be turn-key and can be used as is in conjunction with the current drug curriculum your district uses, or they can be modified to fit your needs.   

NOTE: Beaverton Fake & Fatal classroom material expected to be updated by March 2023. 


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