NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- Every three hours, someone overdoses in New York City, and most of those overdoses are fentanyl related. Doctors are now seeing a new disturbing trend, with most of those overdoses involving children.
Just two milligrams of the synthetic opioid, which equates to some small granules of sugar, can be deadly for adults let alone children.
Some local emergency rooms are seeing an increase in young children being hospitalized from fentanyl poisoning.
"Unfortunately we have seen cases involving kids in our emergency department and always tragic cases," said Dr. Jakub Bartnik of St. Barnabas Hospital. "Thankfully we've been able to intervene. Our first instinct is to intervene and save the child's life and usually when it comes to fentanyl it means they're not breathing well so we breathe for them, and we administer an antidote or a medication that reverses the fentanyl's effects."
Dr. Bartnik recommends people take advantage of the programs available to receive free naloxone, which is the drug that can be administered to reverse the side effects of an overdose.
It's too soon to know how the children were directly exposed to fentanyl in the Bronx home-based day care incident on Friday. Police found a kilo of fentanyl and equipment used to package the drug inside.
Dr. Bartnik said, it's very rare for kids in general to have accidental overdoses from inhaling or touching the drug.
"The real risk is ingestion but as you know, kids walk around and are curious and then put their hands in their mouths and that's how often times how they get these overdoses," Dr. Bartnik said.
More than 380 children died of opioid poisoning in 2018, that number jumped to more than 1,500 in 2021 nationwide. That's a more than 300% increase.
"This is by far the most dangerous drug I've ever seen," said Bridget Brennan, the NYC Special Narcotics Prosecutor.
Fentanyl is cheaper for the drug dealers to make and it's highly addictive so clients keep coming back for more even though it's deadly.
Federal agents say it's coming into the city from Mexico and getting packaged in apartments across the city.
Prosecutors said they've found packaging mills in apartments from the Bronx to Queens to a penthouse in Midtown.
"Those packaging mills could be on your block, on your street and you wouldn't have any idea," Brennan said.
The fentanyl is being laced inside everything from pills, to marijuana to heroin. And now there's another new concern: drug dealers are selling brightly colored fentanyl pills to specifically target a younger generation.
"It's absolutely outrageous to use those kinds of colors and try to entice, it has to be targeted to young children or people," Brennan said.
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