Community Outreach, Drugs
May-June 2023

Teaching kids that ‘One Pill Kills’

By J. Brett Smith
Criminal District Attorney in Grayson County

In cooperation with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and United States Attorney’s Office, the Grayson County Criminal District Attorney’s Office put together a presentation entitled “One Pill Can Kill,” as part of the DEA’s campaign to combat the fatal effects of fentanyl overdoses.

            We first rolled it out to the Grayson County Bar Association. Special Agent in Charge of the DEA’s Dallas Division, Eduardo Chavez, and Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Texas, Britt Featherston, were gracious enough to provide their time and talents to the initial presentation. We had a packed house and educated a lot of attorneys and their staffs. Part of the presentation included videos, statistics, and photographs. We had interactive conversations with the crowd after each slide.

            Our office decided to make a few changes to the program and amended the name to “One Pill Kills,” or OPK for short. We then began marketing the OPK program to our local school districts. The Grayson County Sheriff’s Office graciously agreed to send a narcotics investigator to each presentation, and Assistant United States Attorney Maureen Smith joined us too. We made the presentation with each representative and discussed their roles in combating fentanyl deaths.

            We shared some alarming statistics with the students. The DEA headquarters in Washington D.C. has a “Forever” wall. On it are posted the pictures of youth and young adults who have died from fentanyl overdoses, as well as their ages at the time of death. According to Chavez, the DEA is running out of room on the wall and repeats the mantra, “Fentanyl is the new F-word”: It is fatal, and it is killing our friends and family. Here in Texas, the Department of State Health Services reports that unintentional fentanyl-related deaths have skyrocketed from 2019 to 2022:  In 2019 there were just under 400 such deaths statewide, but by 2022, that number had reached over 1,600. Perhaps one of the most alarming statistics from our presentation is from the nonprofit Families Against Fentanyl (FAF). A January 2023 study from FAF indicates that fentanyl deaths among children are rising faster than any other age group, having more than tripled in just two years. This study is consistent with the dramatic increase in Texas fentanyl deaths over the last two years.

            To date, we have presented the program to four school districts and several thousand students. We also made a special presentation to the Grayson County Department of Juvenile Services, both the post-adjudication facility and detention facility, reaching nearly 70 at-risk youths. We have been amazed at the interaction of the students and their awareness on the issue. In the words of one school superintendent, “If you don’t think kids are taking pills, you don’t know kids. Pills are odorless, easy to conceal, easy to consume, and hard to detect.” We are also aware that Mexican drug trafficking organizations are flooding our county with M30 rainbow fentanyl, which, frankly, looks like candy. 

            Our office has shared a PDF of the PowerPoint presentation with TDCAA; it is below. We are also more than willing to walk you through our method of presentation and handling the question-and-answer session that follows if you’d like. If we save the life of one child, our time will have been well-spent.