TYLER, Texas (KETK) — The fentanyl crisis has claimed the lives of tens of thousands of Americans in just the last year alone. 

“[Fentanyl] is 50 times stronger than heroin, 100 times stronger than morphine,” said Dr. C.M. Schade, member of the Texas Medical Association and former president of the Texas Pain Society.

It’s highly addictive and lethal.

Dr. Schade said the fentanyl plaguing the country is illegally manufactured.

“The drug dealers are manufacturing fake pills, you know. They’re manufacturing lookalike pills that are counterfeit, and they can contain up to as much as five milligrams of fentanyl.”

Dr. Schade said as little as two milligrams of fentanyl is enough to kill a person. That is about the weight of a mosquito or enough to fit on the end of a pencil.

Courtesy: DEA

The drug does not just come in powder form.

“The public is unaware that there’s counterfeit pills. They think they’re taking their Xanax or taking their pain pill, when in fact it’s a counterfeit and they’re risking their life when they take it,” said Dr. Schade.

The drug is now claiming the lives of Texas children. 

One of the most notable incidents is four student deaths linked to fentanyl overdoses in a Central Texas school district.

“It’s scary to us that our kids are finally becoming susceptible to the fentanyl problems that most of the major cities have had,” said Rusk County Sheriff Johnwayne Valdez.

Sheriff Valdez said East Texas is seeing the distribution of the drug. He said while it is not an issue in school-age children yet, his office is “fully expecting for it to hit here.”

When asked if he is prepared for it, Sheriff Valdez said, “Law enforcement-wise, yes. For the preservation of our children, no, because we can’t be everywhere at the same time.”

That is why he put out a warning on social media, educating East Texans about the dangers of fentanyl. 

“I’m trying to educate the parents, these kids before it gets to where it is prevalent here in this county on East Texas,” said Sheriff Valdez. “If they see this stuff and they know what it looks like, they got a better chance of stopping it before their kids ingest it, if they see it.”

Now officials are sounding the alarm on the drug’s newest form: rainbow pills that are made to look like candy, posing a greater risk to kids.

“To do direct sales to our children, they’re making it look like candy, you know, like M&Ms, and they’re rainbow-colored, specifically and designed to be sold to our children,” said Dr. Schade. “We’re gonna see younger and younger children dying.”

There are many ideas on how to fight fentanyl.

Sheriff Valdez said it should start with securing the southern border, which is something he said is easier said than done.

“This system is it’s not even broken anymore, it’s shattered,” said Sheriff Valdez, “and we’re left to try to pick up.”

Gov. Greg Abbott has directed state agencies, including the Texas Education Agency (TEA), to ramp up efforts to combat the crisis.

“Fentanyl is a clandestine killer, and Texans are victimized by Mexican cartels that produce and import it,” said Gov. Abbott.

The governor also took steps to classify those cartels as terrorists in Texas. He has also proposed laws that would make fentanyl dealing a murder charge, which he said would hold distributors of the drug accountable for the deaths of Texans. 

“This is a medical problem. You can’t arrest yourself out of this problem, because if you stop fentanyl, it’s just like prohibition, they’ll find something else to take,” said Dr. Schade.

Dr. Schade recently spoke to the Texas House Committee on Public Health. He gave them a list of eight recommendations to change course on the crisis.

Read his full testimony below:

“The doctors are unable to do what we need to do. Both because we’re being told not to and their lack of funding. So we know what to do. We know how to solve the problem. We’re not being allowed to do that,” said Dr. Schade.

There is an antidote to stop opioid overdoses. It’s called naloxone, better known as Narcan. Dr. Schade said it is inexpensive and effective, saying, “The antidote has to be readily available.”

Helping to save some lives while we work to find a solution to the fentanyl crisis.


Texas Poison Network Center:

Texas Targeted Opioid Response (TTOR): 

Resources for behavioral health services: 

Resources for continuing education related to substance use for health professionals: