WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) – A push for more awareness comes as the prevalence of fentanyl increases in Sedgwick County and across Kansas. Last year, data from the Sedgwick County Forensic Science Center shows that fentanyl overdose deaths exceeded all other drug-related overdose deaths.
The Center for Change in Wichita is just one of the treatment centers seeing the impact of the growing importance of illicitly manufactured fentanyl. A lethal dose of the powerful opioid is only around two milligrams, so little it could easily fit on the tip of a pencil.
Data from the Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office with drug tests from the early months of this year show an increase in the prevalence of fentanyl, particularly because it is so often mixed with other drugs.
“I can’t smell fentanyl, you can’t see it, you can’t taste it. It can be there and you don’t know it, so it’s important to educate patients if they notice symptoms like shallow breathing or just disorientation,” said Rena Cole, Complementary Treatment Services Program Manager. Sedgwick County COMCARE.
Most patients at COMCARE addiction treatment services receive methamphetamine treatment, but opioids are becoming more common with the spread of fentanyl mixed with other drugs.
“If someone isn’t responding to fentanyl, contact them immediately because someone (could) definitely be in a life-threatening situation,” Cole said.
One area of concern is adolescents and young adults.
This has groups like Wichita Safe Streets work on awareness and prevention. Truc Dao is a teen addiction and mental health advocate who describes access to fentanyl or fentanyl-containing drugs as a crisis in Wichita.
“A can ask almost any friend, ‘hey, where can you find a drug fort?’ They’ll say, ‘here’s this, here’s that. It’s not, ‘oh, I don’t know’,” Dao said.
She said that as a high school student, spreading the awareness message resonates more than it would from adults or government officials.
“As young people, we understand, we see each other’s struggles, and we often go through the same struggles,” Dao said.
The Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office and the Wichita Police Department are working with Wichita Public Schools to help raise awareness about fentanyl. There are resources for people looking to get help with treatment, even for those who don’t have insurance.
Resources include, but are not limited to:
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