Emerging Substances of Concern


Fentanyl is a powerful, synthetic opioid. Many individuals consume fentanyl without knowing it while others use it intentionally because of its potency.

Overdose deaths involving fentanyl have increased significantly with 9 out of 10 overdose deaths in Lancaster County involving fentanyl.

Naloxone is effective at reversing an overdose when fentanyl is used.

Request free Narcan from Joining Forces here https://www.lancasterjoiningforces.org/be-prepared/

Learn more about fentanyl here https://www.cdc.gov/stopoverdose/fentanyl/index.html


Xylazine is a tranquilizer that has been found in the drug supply and linked to overdose deaths. Xylanzine is most commonly found in opioids, but has been found in non-opioid substances such as cocaine and methamphetamine.

Xylazine can cause serious skin lesions and wounds. These wounds can be difficult to treat and can spread quickly. People who use drugs and have wounds are encouraged to seek medical care.

You can find additional information about xylazine from the PA Department of Health here https://www.health.pa.gov/

The PA Department of Drug and Alcohol programs has a free training available about xylazine and overdose response. Learn more here https://www.cdc.gov/

Learn more about xylazine here https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/deaths/other-drugs/xylazine/faq.html

About Opioids, Opioid Use Disorder & Addiction

  • Opioids include prescription medications used to treat pain, such as morphine, codeine, methadone, oxycodone, hydrocodone, and fentanyl, as well as illegal drugs such as heroin and illegally-manufactured or distributed opioids.
  • Opioids can be safe when taken as prescribed for short periods of time, but they also have serious risks and side effects. We now know that opioids are not as effective or as safe as we once thought they were for treating pain.
  • Opioids can be highly addictive and might be used for non-medical reasons. For example: taking too much medication, taking it too often, taking someone else’s medication, or using any non-prescription opioid.
  • When a pattern of opioid use creates problems in a person’s daily life, they may develop an opioid use disorder (also referred to as “opioid addiction”)
  • We know that opioid and other substance use disorders are chronic medical conditions that change the way the brain functions, making it difficult to make decisions and control impulses.

Addiction and the Brain
Sobredosis De Droga

Opioid Safety

Tips for safe prescription opioid use:

  • Read the Medication Guide that comes with your prescription
  • Take your medication exactly as prescribed. Do not take more than recommended or use for things other than pain, such as sleep
  • Do not combine opioid pain medications with alcohol or other medications. This can increase the risk of death
  • Do not drive while taking pain medications
  • Never take someone else’s medication
  • Watch for signs of overmedication, such as slurred speech, confusion, excessive sleepiness, and difficulty waking from sleep
  • Use pain patches only as directed and do not use pain patches when taking other long-acting opioid drugs
  • Do not cut, chew, crush, or dissolve opioid tablets or capsules. If you cannot swallow your medication whole, talk to your doctor
  • CDC Patient Information
  • South Central Safer Dosage

Tell your doctor if:

  • The dose you are taking does not control your pain
  • A skin rash develops in an area where you have placed a pain patch
  • You have any side effects
  • You take over-the-counter medications, vitamins, or dietary supplements
  • You are interested in non-opioid methods of pain management

Here are some videos with additional information:

Tips for safe storage:

Safe Medicine Storage

About 35,000 young children are brought to an emergency room each year because they got into medicines that were in their reach. You can help prevent these emergency room visits by safely storing your medicines.

  • Store medication inside a locked cabinet, lockbox (available at local pharmacies), or a location where others can’t easily access it
  • Keep the medication in its original packaging

Learn more about medication safety here https://www.cdc.gov/patientsafety/features/medication-storage.html and here https://upandaway.org/en/

Lancaster County residents may request a free medication lock box from Joining Forces, while supplies last! Click Here

Tips for safe disposal:

Safe Disposal

Many people who use prescription drugs that are not prescribed to them find them in the medicine cabinet’s of friends and family. In order to prevent non-prescribed use of medications, we can all safely dispose of medications we are not using or that have expired.

  • Do not flush medications or throw away
  • To safely throw away, you may use a disposal kit (available at local pharmacies)
  • Dispose of expired or unused medications at a drop-off site

You can learn more about how to safely dispose of medications and find a take back location near you here https://www.ddap.pa.gov/Prevention/pages/drug_take_back.aspx

More information for patients & providers

Information and Resources

For Schools

Joining Forces Materials