Teen overdose deaths point to growing problem

Published: Mar. 4, 2020 at 6:02 PM PST
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We're learning more about the deaths of two Damonte Ranch High School students month ago and more about the disturbing trend behind the incidents.

Two students from the same school dying of drug overdose within days of each other came as a huge shock to the Damonte High School community and neighborhood.

It also raised concerns in families throughout the area. There was neither comfort nor reassurance in the details released by the Washoe County Medical Examiner Wednesday.

Investigators believe the students--boys 17 and 18--thought they were abusing prescription pain killers. In fact they were ingesting street drugs masquerading as the real thing.

"Counterfeit that looks just like prescription pain killers but may actually have the more potent compound fentanyl or even other drugs,:" says Medical Examiner Dr. Laura Knight.

The 18 year old died using the powerful synthetic narcotic fentanyl. The 17 year old had both fentanyl and the stimulant drug MDA, similar to Ecstasy and known on the street as Molly, in his system.

As shocking as the deaths were,Knight says the pair were only the latest victims of a disturbing trend.

"It's important to know that overdoses and drug related deaths have been increasing in our region for some time. During 2019 we saw a 20 percent increase from the prior year and we saw more than 200 drug related deaths. And we're seeing an upswing in the number of fentanyl and fentanyl-analog related deaths as well.

Those numbers are only expected to grow.

The practice of mixing the powerful opioid with heroin began devastating communities on the East Coast several years ago and it's now arrived in our area.

"We have to recognize the reality that the drugs are out there and available and kids may want to experiment with them. We need to talk with them honestly and say look there are these pills out there that are counterfeit and they may have a drug in them that is 100 times more powerful than what you're expecting and you're going to die if you use that kind of pill."

Copyright KOLO-TV 2020