A sheriff's department in one US state is warning people not to pick up folded money they find on the ground.
According to officials, the money may contain a deadly powder mixture - and just touching it could be enough to kill you. Here's what you need to know.
Folded Money and Fentanyl
In Giles County, Tennessee, the sheriff's department has issued an urgent warning.
Two separate incidents were reported at one gas station wherein people picked up what appeared to be folded money on the ground, and there was an unknown powder inside.
The powder was collected and later tested, and found to be a deadly combination of methamphetamine and fentanyl.
GCSO posted on Facebook to explain the incidents, adding, "This is a very dangerous issue! Please share and educate your children to not pick up any folded money they may find in or around businesses, playgrounds, etc., without using great caution and even alerting a parent or guardian."
The post adds, "the amount of powder shown next to the penny, (if fentanyl laced) is more than enough to kill anyone that it comes into contact with."
GCSO encourages people to be "aware" and "safe."
Urban Myths About Free Drugs
But if the story of the folded money and fentanyl rings familiar, there's a reason. Every year for as long as television has been a news medium, a rumor has emerged somewhere of someone giving away free drugs.
Whether it's heroin-laced lollipops and needles tucked away in Halloween candy, or nefarious mystery drug dealers leaving molly and pills laying around for unsuspecting kids, the myth of the "deadly free drugs" has persisted.
Sometimes, the myths contain a nugget of truth and real danger. More often though, they're just a scary story told to frightened parents and passed on to wide-eyed children to be hyper aware of their surroundings.
These myths play into our fears that there's someone out there looking to draw our children into the world of drugs, looking to harm or hook them; it's a primal fear that speaks to our worst worries that no matter what we do to keep our kids safe, they can stumble into addiction and danger anyway.
But most stories about drugs being left intentionally for kids are just that; stories. A caregiver is far more likely to leave drugs lying around for a kid to accidentally discover than a drug dealer is. After all, drug dealers don't make money from dead clients - and kids are notoriously broke.
The Impact of Fentanyl - From Prince to Your Neighbor
That doesn't mean that fentanyl isn't a real and urgent danger, however. In recent years, fentanyl overdoses have skyrocketed. In 2020 alone, nearly 67,000 people died from fentanyl or drugs like it.
It's pervasive, striking people from all walks of life; it could be your church friend, your relative, a teenager you know, a teacher, a doctor - or a celebrity.
A number of high-profile celebrities have died either from fentanyl overdoses or a combination of fentanyl with other dangerous drugs, and here are some of the names you might recognize:
- Mac Miller
- Tom Petty
- Michael K Williams
- Lil Peep
- Shock G
- Logan Williams
- Michelle McNamara (wife of Patton Oswalt)
- Jay Bennett
- Bobby Brown Jr
- Fuquan Johnson
- and more.
While most people can pick up a folded piece of money without fear - germs are probably your biggest risk - the fact is that fentanyl is out there, and by the year it's taking more lives.
Non-profit End Overdose is working feverishly to institute harm reduction to slow the rise of overdose deaths. The website spells their mission out simply; "Our mission is to End Overdose by distributing fentanyl testing strips and to spread awareness on the opioid crisis." For free narcan or to access test strips, visit their website.