Fentanyl Aware: The 101

Counties in Northwest Oregon are seeing increasing drug overdoses resulting in calls to 911, visits to the emergency room, and death. A lot of this increase relates to something called fentanyl. Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid that is now a leading cause of drug overdoses in Oregon. Fentanyl has no taste or smell, and it can be found in fake pills and powders being sold as different drugs. Fentanyl can cause a loss of breathing within moments and cause overdoses and deaths right here in the Northwest.

We want our community to be safe and avoid the risk of drug overdoses. Do not trust pills that are not from a pharmacy. It is impossible to determine the strength of pills provided outside of pharmacies or hospitals, and they may contain fentanyl. Substances may look the same, but fentanyl has changed the drug supply in Oregon because it is strong, cheap, and easy to transport.

Fentanyl is found in pills sold as Xanax, Adderall, OxyContin or others. It might be in powders sold as cocaine, MDMA (ecstasy, molly), and heroin.

Narcan Saves Lives

So what’s Narcan? Narcan (or naloxone) is a medication that quickly reverses opioid overdoses, including ones from fentanyl. Narcan is sprayed up the nose and knocks the opioid drug off brain receptors, restoring normal breathing, saving lives. 

Narcan has nearly no side effects and will only work if a person has opioids in their system. It’s totally safe

Why Carry It?

Anybody using drugs could be at risk for an overdose. If you, your friends, or loved ones use drugs that are not from a pharmacy, Narcan is the medicine that can reverse an overdose. Knowing about or carrying Narcan does not increase drug use, only saves the lives of those who could overdose on drugs.

When and How to use it?

You should give Narcan to anyone who has taken drugs and may be overdosing. You can learn about the signs of an overdose below. If you think someone is overdosing, always call 911 first. If you have Narcan, you insert one side of the nose and use your thumb to press the plunger firmly to give a dose of Narcan. You can watch a video about giving Narcan here. 

How to Get It?

Anyone, even teenagers, can ask a pharmacist to provide Narcan. Most insurance companies cover the medication (but may charge a co-pay). Oregon Health Plan (OHP) provides Narcan free at the pharmacy. If you need Narcan, ask to speak with a pharmacist and explain that you or someone you know is at risk of overdose and that Narcan will help save a life. Oregon law states that a pharmacist should provide Narcan when asked.

You can request free Narcan in the mail from NEXT Distro

Families can contact the HIV Alliance.

Carry Narcan, it saves lives!

Know the Signs of an Overdose

Anyone trying or using drugs could overdose, even if no one knew fentanyl was in the drugs. Know what an overdose looks like, so that you can do the right thing.

How Can I Spot an Opioid Overdose?​

A person could be overdosing if they:

  • Won’t respond or wake up
  • Have slowed or no breathing
  • They’re making gurgling or snoring sounds
  • They have blue or gray skin or lips
  • They have cold or clammy skin

First call 911!

Always call for help – dial 911 – no one can be in trouble for having drugs if they call about an overdose.

Tell the operator your location and that you are with a person who is not breathing and might be overdosing. Tell them if you have Narcan and they can help you reverse the overdose.

Good Samaritan Law

It’s always ok to call for help!

Oregon’s Good Samaritan Law protects anyone – witnesses and victims – seeking medical assistance in drug related overdoses.

If someone is overdosing and you call for medical help, you cannot be arrested or prosecuted for:

  • Possessing drugs or drug paraphernalia
  • Being in a place where drugs are used
  • Violating probation or parole because of drug use or possession
  • Outstanding warrant because of drug use or possession

Lower Your Risk of an Overdose

Don’t trust drugs not from a pharmacy

Only take pills or medications prescribed to you and provided by a pharmacy. It is impossible to determine the strength of pills from outside of pharmacies or hospitals, and they may contain fentanyl.

Don’t try or use drugs alone

It is important not to try or use pills or drugs when you are alone. During an overdose, you can’t call for help or use Narcan on yourself.

Make sure the people around you are aware when you have taken drugs in case they need to give you Narcan or call for emergency assistance.

If being with someone is not possible, contact Never Use Alone | (800) 484 3731

If you know someone who is at risk, offer to check in with them by text, by phone, or if possible, in person.

Don’t mix drugs

Mixing drugs and alcohol or drugs with other drugs is never safe because the effects of combining are stronger and more unpredictable than one drug alone.

If a drug contains fentanyl and is mixed with other drugs or alcohol, the possibility of overdose is much higher.

Don’t rely on a past source

Knowing where your drugs come from doesn’t mean they’re safe. And even if you have used the same source or supply before, your body could react differently every time.

Carry Narcan

Narcan can reverse an overdose. By carrying Narcan if you see an overdose, you could save a life. It’s easy to use, available without a prescription and legal to carry and administer.

Ask for Help

If you or someone you know are struggling with drug use or mental health, it’s ok to ask for help. Let a parent or friend know. 

Your community has options for help:

Columbia County

Columbia County Mental Health CCMH
Outpatient and residential substance use disorder (SUD) treatment, peer outreach, mobile harm reduction, overdose prevention, overdose response

More resources.

Tillamook County Community Health Center’s Harm Reduction and Syringe Service Program
Available during program hours, first four Wednesdays of every month 11am-2pm.

More resources.

Drugs Can be Checked for Fentanyl

What are Fentanyl Testing Strips?

Fentanyl test strips (FTS) are a low-cost method of helping prevent drug overdoses and reducing harm. FTS are small strips of paper that can detect the presence of fentanyl in all different kinds of drugs (cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, etc.) and drug forms (pills, powder, and injectables). FTS provides people who use drugs and communities with important information about fentanyl in the illicit drug supply so they can take steps to reduce risk of overdose. No test is 100% accurate and your drugs may still contain fentanyl even if you receive a negative result. More info from the Center for Disease Control.

Where to Get Them?

Look for organizations in your city or state that distribute strips, keep them on you, and use them.

You can contact the HIV Alliance or reach out to your County Public Health Department.