City issues fentanyl warning for Lollapalooza drug users — a very real problem for many families

Chicago (CBS) Safety is always paramount when it comes to Lollapalooza, but this year, the city is sending out a different kind of safety warning — know the contents of your medications.

Some say messages like this can save lives, while others say they only encourage illegal drug use.

But the city is real — people are taking drugs, and emergency rooms are seeing overdoses during Lollapalooza. So this year, the city is giving people the tools to be safe — like Narcan deliveries, as well as fentanyl drug test kits.

The Chicago Department of Public Health posted an alert on its social media accounts, warning Lollapalooza fans that fentanyl can easily cause an overdose. Fentanyl can be found in cocaine, ecstasy, and other drugs — not just heroin. The administration also advised the public not to use the drugs themselves.

At Lollapalooza, anyone can pick up free fentanyl test strips. Test strips can detect strong opioids when mixed with other medications.

Narcan doses are also distributed free of charge, which can reflect an overdose.

“Every year, we see young people end up hospitalized because they’ve experienced – at a time when we really want people to have fun, but have fun safely,” CDPH commissioner Dr Alison Arwady.

Kathy Zander’s son, John Allen, died of a fentanyl overdose in 2016. He was only 22 years old.

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John Allen

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“He inhaled what he thought was just cocaine, and his close friend hooked it up with fentanyl — which led to his death,” Zander said.

While Zander advocates for Narcan, she is torn when it comes to fentanyl test strips.

“You empower by saying, ‘Okay, I’m going to give you these fentanyl test strips—which I know you would never use,’” Zander said. “I’ve never met an addict who used a fentanyl test strip—ever.”

Samantha Kell, Kimberly Erling’s daughter, also died of a fentanyl overdose.

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“I live in pain every morning I wake up,” Erling said. “I lost my daughter and grandson in the blink of an eye.”

Kiel overdosed on a deadly combination of heroin and fentanyl in Will County in 2018. Her unborn child — whom she planned to name Jackson — did not survive.

Erling disputed the idea that guidance from the city during Lollapalooza amounted to encouraging drug use.

“I don’t think it encourages drug use – I think it can help save lives,” she said.

Obtain fentanyl and Narcan test strips by emailing osu.cdph@cityofchicago.org.

Meanwhile this weekend there will be a motorbike ride in honor of John Allen. The charity tour is sponsored by My Child’s Life Matters & Motorcycle Safety Lawyers, and is for all those who have lost people to opium and fentanyl poisoning.

The ride begins at 11 a.m. Saturday at Woodstock Harley-Davidson, at 2235 S. Eastwood Dr. in Woodstock. The cost is $25 per passenger and $5 per passenger.

A live concert at Carol Stream Town Center will follow afterwards. For more information about the events, follow this link.

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