‘Keep the Party Safe’ provides education on fentanyl risks


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The Colorado State University Health and Medical Center, located on Lake Street and College Avenue Sept. 8, 2019.

Allie Seibel, News Director

Colorado saw a surge of deaths attributed to fentanyl overdoses in 2020. In 2022 the presence of the highly dangerous drug supposedly caused 35 out of the 51 overdose deaths in Larimer County, according to the Northern Colorado Drug Task Force.

“Keep the Party Safe,” a fentanyl prevention campaign run by the Colorado Consortium for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention and the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus’ Center for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention, provides naloxone testing strips, educational information and other resources surrounding the dangers of fentanyl for college students.


“One of the things that makes it so dangerous is that a lot of people are dying because the drugs they’re using are contaminated with fentanyl, and they’re not aware,” said Michael Davidson, senior communications professional for the Consortium. “So a lot of people now know that fentanyl is an opioid because they’ve heard it in the context of the opioid epidemic, so they think that it’s only related to heroin, also an opioid. But what is happening is it’s being laced into cocaine, meth, pills like oxycodone or Vicodin and also pills like Xanax or other benzodiazepines. It can potentially be in any pill that doesn’t come from a pharmacist.”

Fentanyl is 50 times more powerful than heroin, Davidson said. An overdose can happen very quickly and be fatal, especially in social situations when a person might not know they consumed a drug laced with fentanyl.

“Fentanyl can be created in a lab, whereas heroin you have to grow poppy plants, cocaine you have to grow coca,” Davidson said. “So fentanyl is easy to distribute and very hard to detect, and it can make for a more powerful experience.”

According to a press release by the NCDTF, counterfeit pills laced with fentanyl have an increasing presence in Larimer County since 2020, and fentanyl overdose affects every demographic.

“In 2019 NCDTF seized 10,066 fentanyl doses,” the press release reads. “In 2021 that number climbed to 155,738, then nearly doubled in 2022 as NCDTF seized 303,159 doses. The street price for pills ranges from $2 to $10 each, and a single dose can result in death.”

The Health Network at Colorado State University, which partners with Northern Colorado Health Alliance and the Stope the Addiction Fatality Project to provide resources to students, offers free monthly trainings on fentanyl overdose prevention through naloxone at the CSU Health Center.  NARCAN is the nasal form of naloxone and is available to students for free through the Health Network. In addition to the NARCAN, free fentanyl test strips are available as well.

“Know the resources you have around you. There is a needle exchange in Fort Collins where you can get access to Narcan and testing strips if students do need it. If you do party, educate yourself and be safe about it. If a substance does test positive, use slowly and make sure you’re with someone.” -Leah Winningham, Ram Recovery president

Ram Recovery is an organization at Colorado State University run through the Health Network that focuses on supporting students who are in substance recovery through anti-stigma work. Ram Recovery is working with organizations like “Keep the Party Safe” to bring fentanyl safety resources to CSU.

“Right now we are holding Narcan trainings,” Ram Recovery President Leah Winningham said. “Last semester we did quick trainings in The Plaza, where we handed out about 250 kits to students, and we provided them with quick trainings, which lasted less than a minute. We told them basic first aid steps and how to get support as well as paper resources. We also do more hourlong trainings about Narcan and harm reduction. So we’re trying to target places like the housing center, people that are directly working with students that are new on campus that are at a higher risk and sororities and fraternities on campus as well because they have a big mission, and they actually do a lot of work with substance use and harm reduction as well.”

Both Davidson and Winningham said spring break is a period they are especially concerned about relating to the risks of fentanyl for college students.


Bella Walser

“Know the resources you have around you,” Winningham said. “There is a needle exchange in Fort Collins where you can get access to Narcan and testing strips if students do need them. If you do party, educate yourself and be safe about it. If a substance does test positive, use slowly and make sure you’re with someone.”

Sammy Quarm, president of the Ram Recovery Harm Reduction subcommittee, said Ram Recovery focuses not only on recovery and healing efforts but also on the safe and knowledgeable use of drugs.

“Since fentanyl is so prominent in the illicit drug supply lately, it is hard to feel certain about what substances you’re taking,” Quarm said. “Drugs are cut or unintentionally mixed with other substances that aren’t what you were expecting. The crisis on college campuses mostly involves the use of unknown substances and the lack of preparation for a crisis situation. Campuses tend to view substance use as a taboo topic and push abstinence-only approaches, making people feel they need to hide their use.”

Both the Consortium and Ram Recovery expressed that one of the biggest misconceptions about fentanyl is that just touching it can cause an overdose. However, the drug must be ingested after being laced with something else to be fatal. 

Davidson said the mission of “Keep the Party Safe” is not to judge those who choose to explore during college but rather to provide resources and support to keep students safe.

“We just want to reach people who might be going out there, you know, cutting loose, doing things they normally wouldn’t do or even things that they normally would do,” Davidson said. “We just want to get them these messages.”

Reach Allie Seibel at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @allie_seibel_.