FentAlert: Empowering Youth for Safer Choices – SAMHSA Fentanyl Awareness Youth Challenge

January 2, 2024

FentAlert: Empowering Youth for Safer Choices – SAMHSA Fentanyl Awareness Youth Challenge

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is conducting this challenge under the America Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science (COMPETES) Reauthorization Act of 2010, as amended [15 U.S.C. § 3719].

In this challenge the best ideas from U.S. youth, aged 14-18, on a community strategy to increase youth awareness, education, and prevention around the dangers of fentanyl, especially the hidden dangers of fake pills and other contaminants that can lead to drug overdose deaths.

These are the facts:

  • Among adolescents aged 10-19, from 2019 – 2021:
    • Monthly drug overdose deaths increased 109%
    • Deaths involving illicitly manufactured fentanyls increased 182%
    • About 90% of these deaths involved opioids and 84% involved illicitly manufactured fentanyls
    • Counterfeit pills present in nearly 25% of these deaths
    • Two-thirds of those who died had one or more potential bystanders present
      • most didn’t provide overdose response
      • many bystanders were in another room or didn’t know that drugs were being used
  • Criminal drug networks are mass-producing fake pills, and falsely marketing them as legitimate prescription pills.
    • Look just like prescription drugs such as:
      • oxycodone (Oxycontin®)
      • Percocet®)
      • hydrocodone (Vicodin®)
      • alprazolam (Xanax®)
      • or stimulants like amphetamines (Adderall®).
  • 7 out of 10 fake prescription pills (seized by the DEA) contain a potentially lethal dose of fentanyl
  • Xylazine (often known as “tranq”), is a central nervous system depressant and animal tranquillizer that has been showing up in combination with fentanyl and has been involved in a growing number of overdose deaths.

SAMHSA wants to hear ideas, pitched by community, that educates youth in their communities (among friends, at school or within an organization to which they belong) about fentanyl and fake pills, and prevents overdose. Ideas could include any innovative ways to reach youth on this topic like social media posts, vlogs, podcasts, video journals, etc.

View the Challenge Here

How to Participate:


  • Top 6 ideas – $5,000 prize
  • $2,000 to up to 25 youth for honorable mention

Submissions accepted December 1, 2023 – February 26, 2024