Fentanyl awareness sessions in Wichita Falls
A front-line forensic scientist the fentanyl crisis has an important takedown on all drugs, which he hopes will stick with fifth graders, seventh graders and community members attending the Life Decisions Program events on November 7th and 8th at the Memorial Auditorium.
dr Peter Stout has over 20 years of experience in forensic science and forensic toxicology. He is CEO and President of the Houston Forensic Science Center, one of the largest crime labs in the country.
Community members are invited to listen to Stout talk about the dangers of pills on the street, especially fentanyl, and the risk cannabis vapers take with every puff. The free, publicly accessible event will take place on November 7th at 6 p.m. in the auditorium.
Stout may also shed light on Rainbow Fentanyl and whether just touching a pill containing the opioid can be deadly.
The events, organized by the Wichita County Judges, will also feature Wichita Falls Police Officer Brian Arias, who will speak about the local drug scene. Each event should last no longer than an hour.
Stout, a toxicologist, said the country is probably at greater risk from drugs than ever before.
Last year, over 100,000 people died from drug overdoses, an estimated 60% of those deaths from opioids — mostly fentanyl and its “ugly cousins,” he said.
“You really have to live under a rock not to realize that everyone has a drug overdose problem,” Stout said in a phone interview on Friday.
His key message: “Please never share a drug with anyone or take a drug that you have not seen in this little bag and give it to them because you have not the faintest idea what is in it.”
Stout said 20 years ago, kids would raid their grandparents’ medicine cabinets for pill parties, where they’d pour all the medicines into a bowl and pop them. But the pills would turn out to be laxatives, vitamins and antibiotics.
“Now, unfortunately, we see a box full of 15,000 pills. They all look like spot on, identical, legitimately manufactured Alprazolam tablets,” he said.
The drug, sold under the brand name Xanax, is used to treat anxiety and panic disorders.
“Once we start analyzing them, each of them will be something different,” Stout said.
The pills will be methamphetamine, caffeine, nothing, cocaine, and fentanyl or some version of it.
“You can see how it happens. Somebody’s in pain or pain, and they borrow what they think, and what their friend thinks is a legitimate pill, and it’s not, and we see that all the time,” Stout said.
Fentanyl is cheap and coming to the United States in large quantities, he said.
“The people who do this are after money. It’s fantastically easy to get hold of,” Stout said.
He said fentanyl isn’t a problem, but meth is popping up everywhere. He said the lab now regularly sees pills containing both meth and fentanyl.
When time permits, he also plans to talk about topics related to cannabis products and vaping.
“There’s a real danger again, especially for children,” Stout said.
There’s no telling what’s in any type of cannabis product, he said.
“Honestly, some of the stuff just isn’t safe,” Stout said.
He said rainbow fentanyl is on people’s minds because it looks like candy and it’s around Halloween.
“There’s nothing really new about that,” Stout said. “Coincidentally, someone came up with the idea of calling it rainbow fentanyl and had a pretty picture of it.”
As for the dangers of touching a fentanyl pill, first responders are really the ones at risk, he said.
“Please don’t lick the evidence and you’ll probably be fine,” Stout says. “It takes a . . . quite a unique situation to get it through the skin.”
What he worries about is someone getting their hands on drugs without realizing it. Then they lick their fingers. They rub their eyes. That way, they could get a potentially problematic dose, he said.
If a person finds what looks like drugs, don’t open or lick it and wash your hands, Stout said. And get rid of it by washing it up or throwing it in the trash.
The November 7th and 8th events mark the revitalization of the Life Decisions Program. The program used to show prisoners speaking to children in a warning role. But that pick-up was sparked by the fentanyl crisis.
If you’re wondering what keeps a circuit judge up at night, it’s the toll of fentanyl and its ability to cause countless deaths.
The Eighty-ninth District Judge Charles Barnard recently signed an arrest warrant for someone accused of killing a child in a murder that police believe is linked to fentanyl. The powerful drug can cause death almost instantly.
The judge remarked to the officer that killing customers is not a good business model and he doesn’t understand it.
“They don’t care if they kill children,” the officer told Barnard. He also told the judge it won’t be long before fentanyl is made available to elementary school children.
It all weighed on Barnard’s mind.
“I woke up at three in the morning,” the judge, who has grandchildren at school, said in an interview. “I couldn’t sleep anymore. I started thinking, ‘We have to try to go back to the program and try to warn these fifth graders.’ ”
Seventy-eighth District Judge Meredith Kennedy said she had a 10-year-old.
“She’s in fifth grade and we started discussing it because it’s hit our community so hard and so quickly,” Kennedy said in an interview.
Kennedy said it’s important to engage with children to prevent fentanyl issues from developing.
Organizers have invited WFISD, Iowa Park ISD and Burkburnett ISD to send their fifth graders and seventh graders to their designated Monday and Tuesday events.
dr WFISD Superintendent Donny Lee said the Life Decisions Program is critical.
“It’s critical that we engage with all aspects of our community to spread the message, ‘One Pill Can Kill,'” Lee said.
“The more we can speak to our students in meaningful and impactful ways, the greater the potential for saving lives,” he said.
“That The safety of all 13,300 WFISD students is our top priority and we will continue to work with every available agency to contain the fentanyl crisis,” Lee said.
Trish Choate, Enterprise Watchdog Reporter for the Times Record News, covers education, courts, breaking news and more. Contact Trish at [email protected] with news tips. Her Twitter handle is @Trishapedia.