City issues warning about fentanyl at Lollapalooza


CHICAGO (CBS) — Safety is always top of mind when it comes to Lollapalooza, but this year, the city is sending a different type of safety warning – know what’s in your drugs.

Some say such messaging can save lives, while others say it just encourages illegal drug use.

But the city is being real – people are using drugs, and emergency rooms see overdoses during Lollapalooza. So this year, the city is giving people the tools to be safe – like handing out Narcan, 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, MDMA, and other drugs – not just heroin. The department also advised the public to not use drugs by themselves.

At Lollapalooza, anyone can pick up fentanyl test strips at no charge. The test strips can detect the powerful opioid when mixed with other drugs.

Also being distributed for free are doses of Narcan, which can reverse an overdose.

“Every year, we see young people end up admitted to the hospital because they’ve experimented – at a time when we really want people to have fun, but have fun safely,” CDPH Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady.

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

John Allen Family Photo

“He snorted what he thought was just cocaine, and his best friend had spiked it with fentanyl – which killed him,” Zander said.

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

“You’re enabling by saying, ‘OK, so I’m going to give you these fentanyl test strips – which I know you’re not going to use anyhow,'” Zander said. “I’ve never met an addict that used a fentanyl test strip – ever.”

Kimberly Earling’s daughter, Samantha Kile, also died of a fentanyl overdose.

Family Photo

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

Kile overdosed on a lethal mix of heroin and fentanyl in Will County in 2018. Her unborn child – whom she planned to name Jaxsen – didn’t survive.

Earling disputed the idea that the guidance from the city during Lollapalooza amounts to encouraging drug use.

“I don’t believe it’s encouraging drug use – I believe it could help save lives,” she said.

Get fentanyl test strips and Narcan by emailing  

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

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

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

Charlie De Mar

Charlie De Mar is an Emmy Award-winning reporter for CBS2.