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FentAlert: Empowering Youth for Safer Choices - SAMHSA Fentanyl Awareness Youth Challenge

December 7, 2023

SAMHSA is conducting this Challenge under the America Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science (COMPETES) Reauthorization Act of 2010, as amended [15 U.S.C. § 3719].

The Goal

How can young people be a part of the solution to increase awareness about the risks of fentanyl?

In this Challenge, we are seeking the best ideas from U.S. youth, aged 14-18, on a community strategy to increase youth awareness, education, and prevention around the dangers of fentanyl, especially the hidden dangers of fake pills and other contaminants that can lead to drug overdose deaths.


These are the facts:

  • Among adolescents age 10-19, from 2019 to 2021:
    • Monthly drug overdose deaths increased 109%. 
    • Deaths involving illicitly manufactured fentanyls increased 182%. 
    • About 90% of these deaths involved opioids and 84% involved illicitly manufactured fentanyls.
    • Counterfeit pills were present in nearly 25% of these deaths.
    • Two-thirds of those who died had one or more potential bystanders present, but most didn’t provide overdose response (many bystanders were in another room or didn’t know that drugs were being used).
  • Criminal drug networks are mass-producing fake pills, and falsely marketing them as legitimate prescription pills. They are made to look just like prescription drugs such as oxycodone (Oxycontin®, Percocet®), hydrocodone (Vicodin®), and alprazolam (Xanax®); or stimulants like amphetamines (Adderall®).
    • 7 out of 10 fake prescription pills (seized by the DEA) contain a potentially lethal dose of fentanyl.
  • Xylazine (often known as “tranq”), is a central nervous system depressant and animal tranquilizer that has been showing up in combination with fentanyl and has been involved in a growing number of overdose deaths.


What is the best way to make your friends aware of these risks and keep them safe? You have the answers. You are a trusted resource with your friends and in your community. You are an important part of the solution.

SAMHSA wants you to pitch your idea that educates youth in your community (among your friends, or at school, or within an organization to which you belong) about fentanyl and fake pills, and prevents overdose. Your idea could include any innovative ways to reach youth on this topic like social media posts, vlogs, podcasts, video journals, etc.


For more information on the challenge and award click here. 

Contributing Center(s):