Cartels mix fentanyl with other drugs for big money. Teens pay the price

Written by Danielle Chiriguayo, produced by Bennett Purser

More than 1,100 teens died from a drug overdose last year in the U.S., according to a UCLA study from April. Photo by Shutterstock.

A 15-year-old student at Hollywood’s Bernstein High School has died of a fentanyl overdose after taking a pill she likely thought was Percocet. Nine other LAUSD students have overdosed in the last few weeks. The district believes the students bought their drugs from a dealer at a local park. More than 1,100 teens died from a drug overdose last year in the U.S., more than twice the amount in 2019, according to a UCLA study from April. 

Stanford psychiatry professor Keith Humphreys says teens are typically not looking for drugs, but for anti-anxiety or ADHD pills, or lower-strength opioids. However, there are many illicit, fentanyl-laced pills on the market that look nearly identical to legitimate drugs.

He says that drug manufacturing cartels are putting fentanyl in drugs because of how profitable it can be. 

“Some people are going to die immediately from this product. Some people are going to die in a year, but it's addictive, and they will buy it and they will be good customers up to that moment. And so we will accept that death because we're going to still make a lot of money.”

To address the crisis, Humphreys says it’s crucial to have naloxone available at places where kids hang out, such as schools and libraries. He also recommends parents talk to their children about the dangers of using a potentially fatal pill.

“We were told [in the past that] one pill can kill. And that was kind of extreme and hysterical at the time. Unfortunately, it's not extreme anymore. So you have to tell your kids about this, not because you're trying to scare them, but because you love them,” he explains.  

More: Press Play: Fentanyl is driving teen overdose crisis, says UCLA researcher



  • Keith Humphreys - professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Stanford School of Medicine, former senior policy advisor to the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy - @KeithNHumphreys