Abbott signs bill toughening penalties on Texas fentanyl dealers

Gov. Greg Abbott signed a bill on Wednesday that would toughen penalties against fentanyl dealers.

The signing comes as Texas hospitals are seeing an alarming number of teen drug overdoses. They say many of them are linked to fentanyl, which teens are taking unknowingly, laced in black market pain pills.

"The number of lethal doses that just the DPS has seized is enough to kill every man, woman and child in the state of Texas," Abbott said.

Fentanyl is a narcotic that is 50 times more potent than heroin. In just the first six months of this year, DPS seized 1,000 times more of it than the same time last year. 

The new law enhances punishment against fentanyl dealers with 15 years to life in prison. 

Senator Joan Huffman received bipartisan support for her bill. 

"And my idea to increase the penalty enhancement for fentanyl came from some constituents, a family who woke up one morning to find their young college aged son dead in his bed. 

Cook Children's in Fort Worth says doctors are seeing more teen overdoses than ever before and two recent deaths were due to fentanyl. 

Dr. Artee Gandhi, medical director of Cook Children's pain management program says teens often begin by getting addicted to pain pills they find in their own homes. Then when they are out of those, they go to apps like Snapchat to find more. But dealers have laced the pills that look like ones approved by the FDA with fentanyl because it is cheap and addictive. 

"Very scary, something we should all be worried about," Gandhi said.

Gandhi says it can be harder for parents to spot opioid abuse compared with alcohol or marijuana. He also said teens are watching their parents.

"How do you cope with different situations? A substance, pill, Advil for every ache and pain, or teach resiliency coping strategies," he said.

Gandhi says a teenager's developing brain is more prone to addiction.

"Teach different ways to seek out thrills and adventure, keep involved with community sports and family time and teach dangers of substance in body that you don't know effect it will have at that time or as an adult," he said.

Cook Children's says teens as young as 14 have died from overdoses. Gandhi recommends parents monitor their children's social media use and talk to them about the dangers of taking non-prescribed prescription drugs.