Texas Wants to Know

Texas Wants to Know: What's behind the fentanyl crisis?

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NBC 5 News

The city of Dallas made a significant impact in combating opioid overdose last year, with Dallas Fire-Rescue paramedics administering 1,925 doses of Narcan. Now, Dallas Police are considering implementing Narcan into their toolkit.

Narcan, a life-saving medication used to reverse opioid overdose, has become an integral part of the larger conversation surrounding fentanyl and the tragic deaths it has caused.

In this episode of Texas Wants to Know, our host Baylee Friday talks to John Mark Mehlman, a licensed professional and chemical dependency counselor. John serves as the program administrator for the Collin County Substance Abuse Program.

According to John, 60% of the drugs currently seized by the DEA contain fentanyl. Even more alarming, 42% of these fentanyl-laced drugs contain at least two milligrams, a dosage that can prove lethal.

This substance has changed countless lives, particularly among individuals under the age of 30. Cynthia Pursely, an advocate who lost her stepson to fentanyl, founded the non-profit organization Livegy to raise awareness and combat this crisis.

"The rise in fentanyl abuse is a concerning trend," Cynthia said. "We have observed its growth pattern since 2017, and it has spiked dramatically in 2020 and 2021."

Continuing the conversation, Baylee also sits down with Dr. Wendy Eldredge, the superintendent of Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD. Dr. Eldredge shares the district's proactive approach in addressing the fentanyl crisis.

"Our dedicated nurses, in collaboration with our campus staff, have taken the initiative to train all our team members on the proper use of Narcan to combat overdose situations," explains Dr. Eldredge.

The episode delves into topics such as facilitating difficult conversations between parents and teenagers, identifying signs of drug abuse, and providing resources for those seeking support and assistance.

Listen to Texas Wants to Know in the Audacy app or wherever you get your podcasts.


Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine. Just two milligrams of fentanyl, which is equal to 10-15 grains of table salt, is considered a lethal dose.

Without laboratory testing, there is no way to know how much fentanyl is concentrated in a pill or powder. If you encounter fentanyl in any form, do not handle it and call 911 immediately.

Fentanyl remains the deadliest drug threat facing this country. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 107,622 Americans died of drug overdoses in 2021, with 66% of those deaths related to synthetic opioids like fentanyl.

Drug poisonings are the leading killer of Americans between the ages of 18 and 45. Fentanyl available in the United States is primarily supplied by two criminal drug networks, the Sinaloa Cartel and the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG).


In August 2022 the Drug Enforcement Administration issued a public advisory about the alarming emerging trend of colorful fentanyl available nationwide.

Brightly-colored fentanyl, dubbed "rainbow fentanyl" in the media, is being seized in multiple forms, including pills, powder, and blocks that resemble sidewalk chalk.

“Rainbow fentanyl—fentanyl pills and powder that come in a variety of bright colors, shapes, and sizes—is a deliberate effort by drug traffickers to drive addiction amongst kids and young adults,” said DEA Administrator Anne Milgram. “The men and women of the DEA are relentlessly working to stop the trafficking of rainbow fentanyl and defeat the Mexican drug cartels that are responsible for the vast majority of the fentanyl that is being trafficked in the United States.”

Despite claims that certain colors may be more potent than others, there is no indication through DEA’s laboratory testing that this is the case. The DEA said every color, shape, and size of fentanyl should be considered extremely dangerous.

Officials from the Drug Enforcement Administration are warning of fentanyl appearing in bright colors, sometimes resembling sidewalk chalk or candy.


Narcan is an over-the-counter prepackaged nasal spray containing naloxone hydrochloride which is an opioid antagonist that rapidly reverses an opioid overdose, but only temporarily.

According to the manufacturer, "Narcan nasal spray is a prescription medicine used for the treatment of a known or suspected opioid overdose emergency with signs of breathing problems and severe sleepiness or not being able to respond."

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, naloxone is an FDA-approved medication that is used to reverse an opioid overdose.

SAMHSA said because naloxone is a temporary treatment its effects do not last long and it's critical to obtain medical intervention as soon as possible after administering or receiving naloxone.

Marin Wolf with The Dallas Morning New tells NBC 5 about the life-saving training.


According to the National Institutes of Health's National Institute on Drug Abuse, naloxone is a medicine that can rapidly reverse an opioid overdose by attaching itself to opioid receptors and either reversing or blocking the effects of opioids.

"Naloxone can quickly restore normal breathing to a person if their breathing has slowed or stopped because of an opioid overdose. But, naloxone has no effect on someone who does not have opioids in their system, and it is not a treatment for opioid use disorder. Examples of opioids include heroin, fentanyl, oxycodone (OxyContin), hydrocodone (Vicodin), codeine, and morphine.

Naloxone comes in two FDA-approved forms, injectable and as a nasal spray.

Naloxone works for only 30 to 90 minutes and many opioids remain in the body longer than that. It is possible for a person to still experience the effects of an overdose after a dose of naloxone wears off so it's imperative to call 911 or get the overdosing person medical attention as soon as possible after the dose is administered.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on March 29, 2023, approved selling naloxone without a prescription, setting the overdose-reversing drug on course to become the first opioid treatment drug to be sold over the counter.

A different drug, Opvee (nalmefene) is also an emergency nasal spray medication used to reverse an opioid overdose. Opvee, however, is not approved for over-the-counter use and can only be obtained with a prescription. Nalmefene stays in the body longer than naloxone and may be more effective for overdoses caused by long-acting opioids but it also may come with more opioid withdrawal symptoms.


Yes. Narcan is currently available over-the-counter at pharmacies.

Other brands of nasal sprays (RiVive) and injectables may also soon be available over the counter.

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