Health officials use TikTok and Instagram ads to warn kids about fentanyl

The Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department is using social media to warn children of the dangers of fentanyl use.

Since 2020, dozens of young people have died from fentanyl overdoses in Pierce County, and hundreds more have been hospitalized, officials with the health department report.

Overdoses are one of the leading killers in Pierce County. They say 18–24-year-olds are most at risk, but the deadly effects are impacting children.

On Monday a 12-year-old boy overdosed from fentanyl-laced Xanax at cougar mountain middle school, investigators said. A nurse had to revive the child with Naloxone.

RELATED: Child dies, 2 others hospitalized after separate fentanyl exposures in Pierce County

"Why we target youth, is that is a group that wasn’t targeted," said Elizabeth Allen.

Allen is a behavioral health policy coordinator for the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department.

She says the department created a new campaign this month using social media to crack down on fentanyl use.

"Such as TikTok, Instagram, YouTube, but we also have ads at movie theaters," Allen explained. "We have them on billboards and again, all going back to our website," she said.

Allen says kids can get resources on how to stay safe from fentanyl, even if they choose to use drugs.

"If you do misuse, do not misuse alone. Encourage people to carry Naloxone with them. Encourage people to use fentanyl test strips, and encourage people to call 911 if they see an overdose whether they know the person or not," said Allen.

She says this is an evolving effort. The department will look at trends and data to make sure the right people are hearing the message. 

However, this effort needs to come from more than just health officials, Allen said.

 "I would suggest that parents don’t have the attitude of, ‘It’s not going to happen to me. It’s not going to happen to my child.’ It may not happen to your child, but your child most likely knows either a friend, a loved one, or a friend who has parents who are struggling," she said.

The department is awarding $5,000 to eight different organizations who are creating anti-fentanyl messages

For more information on the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department’s efforts click here.