KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The Tennessee Department of Health said that in 2020, over 2,000 people died in the state of an overdose related to fentanyl. The prevalence of the drug has some advocates, agencies and organizations concerned.
Karen Pershing, who works with the Metro Drug Coalition, said that fentanyl has been present in East Tennessee for a while.
"In fact, it's the leading, most common drug that we're seeing in overdose deaths," she said. "Fentanyl is being laced in a lot of street drugs right now."
Officials said that they have not seen any overdose deaths among teens, but they also wanted to warn parents and guardians about it. A lethal dose of fentanyl is extremely small, and the Drug Enforcement Administration said that a deadly dose could fit on the tip of a pencil.
"And that's why it's important that people carry Narcan," said Pershing.
However, advocates also said that most regular users of illegal drugs do not actively seek out fentanyl. They said most try to avoid it while still using other illegal drugs since fentanyl can have such devastating results. However, fentanyl can still show up in many drugs like heroin without people realizing it.
It can be several times more potent than morphine and the DEA said it is found across the U.S.
The Monroe County Sheriff's Office said that a vape pen a student brought to Sequoyah High School exposed three people to fentanyl. Those people were given Narcan, but it was not immediately clear how they were exposed.
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation also said that agencies are working to keep fentanyl off the streets and are working with many agencies to educate people about how dangerous it can be.