Fentanyl continues to kill students

Early College High School at Brookhaven Campus informs parents and students of the dangers of fentanyl.


Andrea Olan

Eduardo A. Chavez tells parents to alert local authorities on unusual activities in their communities through anonymous tip lines on March 4.

Andrea Olan, Managing Editor

Three deaths and 10 overdose cases have been reported in students from the Carrollton-Farmers Branch Independent School District since September 2022, according to the Department of Justice.

Parents and students attended a presentation on March 4, held at BHC and hosted by the Early College High School Parent Teacher Student Association, seeking explanations and answers about the rising cases of fentanyl overdoses.

Fentanyl is an opioid used for pain relief and anesthesia in hospitals. Fentanyl is 100 times more powerful than morphine and 50 times more potent than heroin, according to the Drug Enforcement Agency.

Eduardo A. Chávez, special agent in charge with DEA Dallas, was the speaker for the presentation. “Fentanyl is unlike any drug we have seen in past years,” Chávez said. “This is a topic that is very important to us.”

Chávez has 23 years of experience with ongoing leadership in investigations on recent overdose cases in the area. Chávez said it is important to inform vulnerable family members of the dangers of fentanyl. During his presentation, Chávez switched between English and Spanish to accommodate all attendees present.

“In a medical situation they’ll put it in an IV, they’ll liquefy it and give it in small dosages,” Chávez said. “But its natural form is a white powder.” The most common form in which fentanyl is sold is pills. Illegal manufacturers are producing them with indistinguishable differences to oxycodone or Xanax pills.

We have never seen any drug with such a small dose causing this many deaths.

— Eduardo A. Chávez, DEA Special Agent

Chávez said fentanyl’s effect on the body is relaxation and pain relief. Unlike cocaine or methamphetamine, fentanyl causes sedation, respiratory depression and decreased heart pulsations. “It blocks the pain receptors to your brain,” Chávez said. “You won’t get the typical high you get from methamphetamine.”

Illicit fentanyl is manufactured in China. The raw product is then shipped to Mexico, where drug trafficking organizations convert them into pills, according to the DEA. Chávez said the profit margin is attractive to resellers, since the price range for one pill is $10 – $30.

“We have never seen any drug with such a small dose causing this many deaths,” Chávez said. According to a report published by the Journal of the American Medical Association, 77% of adolescent drug overdose deaths in 2021 were related to fentanyl.

Chávez showed a two gram packet of sugar to the attendees. He said with two grams of fentanyl, illicit manufacturers could make up to one thousand pills. “One thousand people could die if this was fentanyl,” he said. “Two milligrams is a fatal dose. That is why it’s so dangerous.”

In laboratory analysis done by the DEA of seized fentanyl pills, Chávez said six out of 10 pills have an average of 2.34 grams of fentanyl – enough to cause an overdose.

He said other substances commonly consumed by teenagers can be laced with fentanyl. For example, vitamin pills or gummy bears could have a small amount of contamination from the illicit drug.

According to a U.S. Attorney’s Office, Northern District of Texas press release, published on March 3, fentanyl was distributed in the Carrollton area on social media by Donovan Jude Andrews. Also linked to the 10 overdose cases are Luis Eduardo Navarrete, Jason Xavier Villanueva and Magaly Mejia Cano, who were charged with federal drug crime for distributing pills to high school students in the district.

Nabil Khawla, a high school biology professor at Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD Early College High School on Brookhaven Campus, said he is concerned for his students. Khawla said he is worried about whether he would identify a student’s fatigue as regular exhaustion or symptoms of fentanyl consumption. According to the DEA, a fentanyl overdose escalates from dizziness, nausea and vomiting to having a presence of symptoms including coma, pinpoint pupils and respiratory depression.

Ivett Bocanegra, parent and community engagement assistant at Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD Early College High School, said the school district is doing everything in their power to inform parents about the dangers of fentanyl and to protect students. She said teachers and staff are trained to respond to an overdose episode.

“We have received training from the district to detect if a student is under any influence,” Bocanegra said. “If [students] are in a situation like that we have to administer Narcan.”

Narcan is an opioid overdose treatment that blocks the effects of the opioid, and is administered immediately during an emergency, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention website.

On March 3, Narcan was administered to an R.L. Turner High School student after she was found unconscious in a restroom, from a potential overdose, according to NBC5.

Chávez urged parents to have a conversation about fentanyl with their children. With an alarming number of cases surging in North Texas, he said it’s important to be aware of the community and report any threats to local authorities through anonymous tip lines.