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May 9 is Fentanyl Awareness Day: here's what you need to know

May 09, 2023 10:10AM ● By Content Editor
Image: Fentanyl Awareness Day 

By Laura Durenberger-Grunow - Boreal Community Media - May 9, 2023

You've heard of fentanyl, but what is it, exactly? And why is it so deadly?

The answers to those questions (and others) are just one of the reasons May 9 has been designated Fentanyl Awareness Day. 

Here are some facts about fentanyl:


So, what exactly is fentanyl?

According to the organization Fentanyl Awareness Day, "Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is safely used in medical settings for pain relief every day. However, because it is cheap, potent, and relatively easy to make, a black market version of fentanyl has percolated into the street drug market. This illicitly manufactured fentanyl (IMF)** is now the primary contributor to the recent, unprecedented spike in drug related deaths.


The opioid epidemic has increased drastically the past couple of years. In 2022, a staggering 110,236 people died in a single 12-month period, a stunning new record, according to NPR. 

In March of 2023, the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) issued a warning to Americans regarding a sharp increase in the trafficking of fentanyl mixed with xylazine. 

Xylazine, also known as “Tranq,” is a powerful sedative that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved for veterinary use.  

In that same month, the Journal of Pediatrics released results from a study that revealed that more children under the age of five are dying from overdosing on opioids. 

The good news is that many government entities (from county to federal) are working to decrease the number of deaths related to overdoses. 

Recently, the FDA approved over-the-counter Narcan, setting the overdose-reversing drug on course to become the first opioid treatment drug to be sold over the counter.

Narcan can reverse overdoses of opioids, including street drugs such as heroin and fentanyl, and prescription versions including oxycodone. It is either administered as a nasal spray or injection. Many entities, including Cook County's own Cook County Higher Education (CCHE), are offering free Narcan training that are open and available to anyone who is interested. 

In the case of CCHE, Narcan training will be offered monthly throughout 2023. You can visit their website for more information. 

If you or someone you know are struggling with substance abuse, here are some local resources:

For more information about Fentanyl Awareness Day, visit:, or follow National Fentanyl Awareness Day on social media and help spread the word. 

Use the hashtags #NationalFentanylAwarenessDay and #JustSayKNOW to educate your friends and followers about this critical issue.
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