‘Deadly as cyanide’: OxyContin pills laced with fentanyl killing Kansas City teens

The Kansas City Star Editorial Board
·3 min read

Police are sounding the alarm that OxyContin pills laced with fentanyl have killed several teenagers in the Northland and Independence and caused overdoses throughout the area.

This isn’t about busting teens for messing around with drugs. This is a public health warning. Police said they are trying to get these counterfeit pills off the street before the death toll climbs to crisis proportions.

So talk to your children about it, because this is serious stuff.

“It’s pretty scary,” said John Syme, spokesman for the Independence Police Department, which is investigating the recent deaths of two teens who police say ingested these deadly pills.

In February, Kansas City police were investigating several overdoses and deaths from overdose at schools in the city’s Northland.

“While the drugs have spread throughout the metro area,” police said in a statement, “the most overdoses have occurred among teenagers in the Northland. Some have survived and some haven’t.”

Police are seeing an alarming rise in fentanyl overdoses across the metro from Grain Valley to St. Joseph, where this month police have dealt with several deaths and more than 65 overdoses they believe could be related to the pills. Buchanan County health officials reported 110 overdoses since the first of the year.

The Park Hill School District sent a warning to parents. “If you come across any of these pills, use caution and wear gloves before touching them. Your skin can absorb this dangerous drug,” the notice said. “If you hear students talking about fentanyl or its nicknames; Dance Fever, Friend, Goodfellas, Jackpot, Murder 8, or Tango & Cash, please contact law enforcement or your school’s resource officer.”

Kansas City police warned parents to watch for small blue pills stamped with “M” and “30.” They look like an OxyContin pill only they are laced with fentanyl, a drug that is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine.

“Kids will be kids and they are going to try stuff,” said Dan Cummings, Jackson County Drug Task Force officer-in-charge. “But we’ve got kids, good kids, buying these pills because they think they’re prescription medications and that means they’re safe. What they don’t realize is they might be getting what is literally a poison pill.”

Cummings said police believe drug dealers have mixed a variety of illicit drugs with the less expensive but highly potent fentanyl as a way to produce a larger quantity of more expensive drugs.

The two drugs are often not mixed well and so some of the counterfeit pills pressed from the mixture end up with a higher concentration of fentanyl than others.

For the dealers, Cummings said, it’s about making as much money as possible and “there’s no quality control. They don’t really care. They might not intend to put too much fentanyl in any tablet, but they aren’t being too careful about it either.” The result is that “taking these pills is like playing Russian roulette.”

Jackson County COMBAT Director Vince Ortega said in a statement that “any tablet with a heavy enough concentration of fentanyl in it — and it doesn’t take much — could be every bit as deadly as biting down on a cyanide capsule.”