Fentanyl Overdoses Among Children in California and Beyond

child overdoses fentanyl bcoming common california

In May 2022, a three-year-old child died from fentanyl ingestion in a home in San Luis Obispo.  Like many California overdoses, it took months to conduct a full medical examination. Police now say they have enough information on the child’s death to charge the mother criminally. Authorities have announced they plan to charge the child’s mother, 30-year-old Jennifer Mae Niemann, with reckless endangerment.

Fentanyl Overdose Incidents Among Children Becoming Common

On May 4, 2022, police responded to a phone call about a child that was turning blue and not breathing. Emergency personnel arrived and found the unresponsive child. EMTs from the fire department began lifesaving efforts and took the child to the hospital. However, all lifesaving efforts failed. He was pronounced dead later in the day. Toxicology results later showed the child had died from a fentanyl overdose.

Ms. Niemann, the child’s mother, was apparently careless with fentanyl, and due to her actions, the child got ahold of it, resulting in his death. So far, the police have not explained how the child got ahold of the fentanyl. It will likely come up at trial.

Drug overdose deaths involving children aren’t rare. They happen nationwide. They are almost always accidental. States as far away as Kansas had record overdoses for minors in 2020, with 16 teen deaths. Last September, a mother in Iowa was charged with murder when her 22-month-old child died of an overdose.

Ms. Niemann, the mother whose child died in her care in San Luis Obispo, is being held in county jail on four criminal charges. She is being charged with “child endangerment with great bodily injury, enhancement for causing great bodily injury during a commission of a felony, possession of a controlled substance (methamphetamine) and possession of a controlled substance (fentanyl).”  Her bail has been set at half a million dollars.

Fentanyl Is a Deadly Drug

Fentanyl is one of the most potent pain medications in the medical industry. Yet it’s becoming more commonly used as a pain medication, party drug, or adulterant. Many people who ingest fentanyl don’t know that they’re taking it. Fentanyl has become a common adulterant among street drugs, especially drugs sold through anonymous apps. Fentanyl in California has been found in a myriad of drugs seized by police, including cocaine and Molly.

People have accidentally overdosed on fentanyl when they thought they were taking Molly, cocaine, and club drugs. For people who don’t use opioids, this can cause trouble breathing and can make their heart stop. Over 100,000 people died from opioid use disorder in 2021. The majority of these overdoses involved fentanyl. Many of them may have had fentanyl as a contaminant.

People who use opioids are at high risk for overdoses. Fentanyl is a potent drug and can cause significant withdrawal symptoms that make going “cold turkey” nearly impossible. A clinical detox, and treatment, including Medication-Assisted Treatment can help with these issues when a person first gets sober.

Getting Help, And Sober Housing

If you or somebody you love is addicted to fentanyl or other opioids, help is available. Treatment and detox can help you reclaim your life, and sober housing can give you stability.

Many people who go to drug detox and treatment choose sober housing as the next step in recovery. We offer safety, security, and community for you as you begin your journey in recovery. Give us a call at 760-216-2077 to learn more about our programs.

Fentanyl seizures at border continue to spike, according to the U.S. Department of Justice making San Diego a national epicenter for fentanyl trafficking. According to the DOJ release, more deadly fentanyl is being seized by border officials in San Diego and Imperial counties than at any of the nation’s 300-plus ports of entry, making this federal district an epicenter for fentanyl trafficking into the United States.

High Schools are Reporting Ever-Increasing Fentanyl Deaths

The San Diego Union Tribune reported recently about a California high school that made arrests after a student overdosed on fentanyl pills on campus during school. Notably the perpetrator used social media to market the pills.  Using social media channels (like Snapchat) to market fentanyl laced pills is increasingly common, especially among teens, and often with predictably tragic effects

Fentanyl is Hyper-Potent and Deadly

Researchers have sounded an alarm for the past few years about the rise in overdose deaths involving fentanyl. The majority of overdoses now involve the drug, which is 50-100 times as powerful as Morphine. Overdoses that involve fentanyl are usually deadlier because of the potency of the drug.

For people who have an opioid use disorder, there are many risks to take when buying drugs. Regular drug supply chains are strained, and China has outlawed the manufacture of oxycodone (aka Oxycontin) and fentanyl. Because of this, chemists that rely on illicit drug sales have been offering fentanyl either as an adulterant or alternative to other opioids. Chinese drugmakers funnel fentanyl through the Mexico border, and from there, it makes its way into heroin, Oxy, and other street (and internet) drug dealers.

FENTANYL OVERDOSES ARE GETTING YOUNGER

Roneet Lev, an emergency room physician at Scripps Mercy Hospital in San Diego, California, told Bloomberg that most of the overdose deaths she’s seen in teens are accidental overdoses. One of her young patients, 14 years old, died from a fentanyl overdose.

“The problem is both supply and demand,” she said. “There’s already a lot of fentanyl coming into our market, and now we have a pandemic where people are isolated and not working, or not in school. These teenagers probably don’t have a substance use disorder, they’re experimenting, making a bad choice, and they end up dead.”

EDUCATION AND PREVENTION EFFORTS

Many cities and nonprofits say that harm reduction is an integral part of tackling the opioid epidemic. After all, many of the young people who are dying don’t even mean to take fentanyl. They often believe they’re taking a pill such as Percocet, Adderall, Ecstacy, etc. It may be the first time they have ever taken a drug at all.

Many law enforcement agencies are trying to get the word out about counterfeit pills and the dangers of fentanyl.

Some nonprofits offer fentanyl testing strips as a harm reduction measure that can test drugs for the presence of fentanyl. Then, the user can decide if they want to take it or flush it. Narcan, an overdose reversal drug, is also available to people who use opioids and other concerned community members. Carrying this drug can help reverse fatal overdoses, but when it’s a drug like fentanyl, reversal may require multiple doses of Narcan.

STAYING SOBER IN SOBER HOUSING

If you or somebody you love needs a safe living space to continue their recovery journey, sober housing may be the answer. We have an excellent, enthusiastic, peaceful environment where you can learn to live life on its terms, substance-free. Call us to learn more about our programs at 760-216-2077. Our treatment team is also very familiar with recovery from fentanyl and other opioids.

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