DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – A new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report shows that fentanyl was involved in 77% of teen overdose deaths in 2021. That same report also found that in ages 14 to 18, opioid overdoses increased 94% from 2019 to 2020, then an additional 20% from 2020 to 2021.

“We’ve seen a huge increase in rates of anxiety and depression, specifically among teens and youth. Mental health-related emergency visits are up 31% among 12 to 17-year-olds and even 24% for 5 to 11-year-olds,” said ADAMHS Prevention Early Intervention Director Tristyn Ball.

With all of the stress, experts said that many teens have turned to drugs for coping. In Montgomery County, a recent survey was conducted and found that students aren’t usually turning to opioids, but are using other drugs like Ativan and Adderall. “We’re seeing counterfeit pills, or drugs laced with fentanyl as well,” said Ball.

Fentanyl related deaths aren’t just impacting illegal drug usage, but also being laced in legal substances too. Dr. Beth Weinstock is the co-founder of Birdie Light, an organization that works by spreading awareness on the dangers of fentanyl. “There’s still a lot of stigma attached to this word. So many people are unaware, and so many people are unaware of the substances they’re ingesting,” said Dr. Weinstock.

In 2021, Dr. Weinstock lost her 20 year old son Eli. Following his death, a coroner found two substances in his system, fentanyl and a legal herbal substance. Since Eli’s death, Birdie Light has been a way for Weinstock to help fight what she calls a poisoning crisis. “So we try to target that age demographic before they get to first time use, or perhaps if they’re using recreationally we try to get our information in front of them to say here’s what fentanyl is here’s the data,” said Dr. Weinstock.

For people struggling with drug addiction, Ball said strong support groups are helpful tools. “A teacher, whether that be a pastor, whether that be a family friend. A coach, whoever that is. A mentor of sorts. That is the biggest protective factor that anybody can contribute to right?”

For local help and more information on ADAMHS, click here.