California State University, Northridge film students, along with faculty and alumni have produced a public service announcement (PSA) to address the ongoing fentanyl crisis and educate the public about the dangers of fentanyl pills. This PSA was made in partnership with the United States Attorney’s Office Central District of  California, the Drug Enforcement Administration Los Angeles Division and the District Attorney’s Offices of Riverside and San Bernardino Counties. 

The video, which spotlights the death of 17-year-old girl who took a fentanyl pill, was announced on Thursday, January 26, during a joint press conference in the Inland Empire. The 30-second PSA was produced pro bono by the CSUN students and cinema and television arts professor Nate Thomas, head of the university’s film production option. 

YouTube video

“This fentanyl epidemic is rampant and pervasive,” said Thomas, who teaches in the Mike Curb College of Arts, Media, and Communication. “Young people are the future, and this (drug) epidemic is killing them off, from celebrities to junior high school students they’re dropping like flies.”

Thomas was thrilled to get a chance to put together a team of creatives for this project, after having worked on a number of PSAs in the past, including projects for the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. 

In addition to film professors Nate Thomas, who served as producer, and Joel Krantz, who served as sound designer, the PSA’s crew included film alumna Celeste Bird as the project’s line producer, alumni Kevin Steinfield, who edited the piece, and Carlos Ramirez, who served as director of photography. 

Nate and I discussed the ambulance siren, ambulance gurney, and the sound of the heart defibrillator,” Krantz said. “These sounds really drove home the point of the message. If the PSA even saves one life, I would consider it a success.  We’re all hoping that it will have a much larger impact.”

According to the most recent report from the Los Angeles County Public Health Department there were 1,504 recorded fentanyl related overdoses in 2021. Among the youth (ages 12-17) fentanyl was present in 92% of accidental drug overdose related deaths. 

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 50-100 times stronger than morphine. Pharmaceutical fentanyl was developed with the purpose of aiding pain management in cancer patients. 

The PSA was made in response to the public health emergency and increasing prevalence of illegally manufactured fentanyl. These fentanyl pills are designed to mimic prescription pills down to the size, shape, color and stamping. Fentanyl can also be mixed with other drugs such as heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine. Oftentimes individuals unknowingly ingest fentanyl in fake pills.

The presence of illicitly manufactured fentanyl is increasing in illegal drug markets for its heroin-like effect. Fentanyl is extremely deadly and addictive. Even two milligrams of fentanyl, which is the amount that can fit on the tip of a pencil, can potentially be deadly.

“Fentanyl is a deadly drug that is devastating our community,” said Riverside District Attorney Michael Hestrin. “Our office continues the urgent work of educating our residents about the dangers of fentanyl and holding those accountable who peddle this poison in Riverside County.”