20 Miles from the Epicenter

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A conversation about the fentanyl crises

  On January 18, Portland declared a State of Emergency to address the fentanyl crisis that, like many west coast cities, has ravaged thousands; a potent synthetic drug, fentanyl deaths have raced upwards more than 1000% over the past decade—and show no signs of slowing, as the rates continued to spike upwards. According to The Oregonian, Oregon has seen a 41 percent increase in fentanyl deaths from September 2022 to September 2023; that is the highest in the nation, and even since the Declaration of Emergency, nearly another 200 more people have died in Portland alone from fentanyl overdoses. 

   But it isn’t just cities like Portland—and thinking that it is an urban problem creates an untruthful sense of relief.

   Sure, it is easier to pretend that you or your friends will not be affected by this drug. That was the case for myself until two years ago. Growing up I never thought I would personally lose someone to fentanyl. But during the summer of 2022, one of my close friends overdosed, taking a pill that he assumed was oxy. The pill was later found out to be laced with fentanyl. Nobody should be forever 23 years old.

   As college age is a prime demographic for experimental drug use, colleges and universities have begun to respond to the growing crisis. Campus Security, located in College Way, always has Naloxone, otherwise known as Narcan on han. This drug is used to treat a narcotic overdose after it happens. But while this is a great responsive resource, being 20 miles away from a city that is in a state of emergency due to the abundance of fentanyl, it is important to have more than just an option used after a disaster happens. 

   For example, the University of Oregon is pushing to provide fentanyl testing strips in hopes to prevent drug related deaths, setting a lead in trying to diminish this crisis. Fentanyl testing strips can be used on pills, cocaine or heroin to detect the presence of any fentanyl, as increasingly the opioid has been found to lace other drugs. But these testing strips have stirred controversy; much like needle exchange programs a generation ago, which were criticized for enabling drug-use, some complain that fentanyl testing strips encourages use of other drugs. Closing a blind eye to a problem, however, is not a solution. 

   No kid or person should have to pay for their lives due to a bad decision from taking a pill. I urge you to stay safe when taking street drugs, and further urge you not to take anything that you do not know where it came from. 

Avari Schumacher
Editor-in-Chief & Writer

Major: Sports Communications

Hometown: Stayton, OR

Hobbies: Watching baseball, thrifting, skincare, hanging out with my pets, snowboarding, and going on walks.

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