FORT MYERS, Fla. — Newly released figures show teenagers dying from drug overdoses has skyrocketed in recent years.
Even worse, experts warn there are now signs of slowing down.
From 2019 to 2020, according to the Drug Free America Foundation, there was a 94% increase in overdose deaths among teens ages 14 to 18 and a 20% increase from 2020 to 2021, the most recent year data was available.
But for Al Kinkle, founder of Kimmie’s Recovery Zone, a non-profit in Fort Myers dedicated to breaking the spell of addiction for families, there’s one statistic that stands out.
“84% of the overdoses had fentanyl in it,” said Kinkle. “I don’t think you can trust anything you take right now because fentanyl is in everything.”
Kinkle has been fighting a war against fentanyl since 2015.
His daughter Kimmie, who he named his non-profit after, died from an overdose that year.
“Kimmie was a wonderful girl. (She had) a big loving heart,” said Kinkle. “She could walk in a room and captivate everybody. She was just a great human being.”
A bright smile hiding a painful past.
After a traumatic event as a child, Kimmie Kinkle turned to drugs as a teenager.
By 25, her father says she was using heroin.
But a few years later, a new poison came into the equation.
“My daughter used heroin. She didn’t know fentanyl was in that heroin. And that was the early days of fentanyl 2015,” Kinkle said.
The early days of fentanyl escalated into what he now calls a war.
“Fentayl, you can be assured, is in almost everything. I’ve talked to a lot of high school parents their children have experimented for the first time and we’ve lost several of them,” said Kinkle.
The Drug Enforcement Administration says the top suppliers of fentanyl to the US are Mexican drug cartels.
While the drug is sometimes mixed with other narcotics, like cocaine and heroin, more and more often experts say fentanyl is pressed into fake pills.
Users may think they’re taking a lab created painkiller, when in fact, they’re taking fentanyl.
“The most important thing we can do is provide treatment centers,” Kinkle said.