“Drugs”, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0, Daniel Foster Overdoses can lead to immediate death. For more information about opioids (class of drugs), visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration at samhsa.gov.

Fentanyl overdoses rise among high schoolers

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Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid 50-100 times stronger than morphine which is used to treat severe pain, is being produced illicitly and has found its way to teenagers. Since early September, there has been a growing number of overdoses on fentanyl-laced pills among Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) teenagers, resulting in hospitalizations or deaths.

“I think teenagers are naturally curious, so trying drugs, especially if their friends have tried them, seems like an obvious outcome,” said senior Nikoloz Nadirashvili. “But trying drugs once is followed by trying drugs twice, then thrice, and so on.”

According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), only two milligrams of fentanyl can be lethal depending on the consumer’s body size, tolerance, and past drug usage. The DEA has also reported discovering counterfeit pills ranging from 0.02 to 5.1 milligrams of fentanyl per tablet. There is a possibility that the consumer does not know a pill contains fentanyl. Moreover, in response to the rising numbers of overdoses and the death of a student at Bernstein High School, LAUSD has announced that it will distribute naloxone to its schools. According to the National Institutes of Health, naloxone is a medicine that rapidly reverses an opioid overdose. It can be given in two ways: through a nasal spray or an injection. LAUSD administrators decided that they would administer naloxone via the nasal spray in the event of an overdose. 

“My thoughts on LAUSD’s actions to distribute naloxone is that it’s nice of them to distribute it out,” said junior Kelly Liu. “Not only are they being [thoughtful], they care for the community and want everyone to be safe and healthy.”

Along with LAUSD, other school districts have taken action to spread awareness about the dangers of fentanyl. On Oct. 11 at 6 p.m. there was a Fentanyl Town Hall Webinar on Zoom featuring speakers from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health as well as the Pomona Wellness Community Substance Use Counselors. 

“I think that it was a responsible decision and I think parents are very worried about the serious dangers of fentanyl,” said junior Robert Saucedo Castro. “Reassurance by the district will put parents and students alike at ease.” 

In addition to educating students about the risks of taking drugs, the webinar also discouraged the use of drugs, but only time will tell whether or not its message was heard.

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