Counterfeit Pills And Fentanyl: A Silent Crisis
Fentanyl is a dangerous public health hazard across America, becoming ubiquitous as an additive to street drugs. People who use Molly, crystal meth, and even marijuana may encounter the drug accidentally. Illicit drug users are not always careful, especially those who use drugs they consider "light" or recreational. While fentanyl is everywhere, not everyone who uses illicit drugs knows about it. This means many unsuspecting users risk being killed by the drugs they consume. Sadly, it's happening across the age spectrum, from high school to the elderly.
Fentanyl Overdoses, COVID-19 as Parallel Crises
Since the pandemic's beginning in 2020, more than 165,000 people have died from opioid overdoses. Over a million people have died from COVID-19. Because of this, three years of life expectancy has been lost among Americans collectively.
Now more than ever, fentanyl is a problem. It's become a common additive to street drugs not generally associated with opioids. Many people think they are taking party drugs or even stimulants like cocaine or crystal meth, only to be exposed to a toxic dose of fentanyl. Some of them overdose. Others may become addicted. Fentanyl is a potent drug, 50-100 times stronger than morphine. But it has also become a favorite among opioid users in California, especially in San Francisco's Tenderloin district.
With fentanyl use spiraling out of control, so are the opioid deaths among specific populations. Opioid overdoses among Black and BIPOC adults are increasing disproportionately in some parts of the country. In other parts of the country, such as California and Florida, a more significant proportion of people dying from overdoses are White. And the ages of the overdose victims tend to be younger adults, with almost 60% of OD deaths younger than 45 years old. However, no matter the demographics, it appears that fentanyl is at fault.
Counterfeit Drugs Also Driving Fentanyl OD Trends
Counterfeit pills have become such a problem that Los Angeles has created an entire campaign surrounding counterfeit pills. The slogan for the campaign is "Bad meds kill real people." The campaign aims to educate, prevent, and enforce the law regarding counterfeit pills that could be made from fentanyl.
"The manufacturers of these counterfeit medicines only care about making money at the expense of our most vulnerable communities and community members," Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna said at a press conference this week. "These medicines contain no active pharmaceutical ingredients." Instead, the medications often contain a deadly dose of fentanyl.
Streety drugs that have been found that contain fentanyl include marijuana, cocaine, crystal meth, Molly/MDMA, LSD, Adderall, and cocaine.
Preventing Fentanyl Overdoses Is a Community Effort
Harm reduction and making treatment available are essential components of keeping people safe in the community. For example, harm reduction programs can campaign for public spaces such as libraries, community centers, and schools to carry Narcan, the opioid overdose reversal drug.
Recovery is also an option for people who use substances. A treatment program, including Medication-Assisted Treatment, can also help people quit taking risks and get sober for the long term. Sobriety has many advantages for people with substance abuse disorder, including better health and peace of mind.
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Coping with the youth fentanyl overdose crisis has been scary. California has experienced a flurry of fentanyl-related overdoses within high schools. The dangers are real enough tschoolshool are going to be required to keep Naloxone, the opioid reversal drug, on hand by law. This new law aims to tackle the epidemic of fentanyl overdoses.
California recently passed Assembly Bill 19, requiring schools to keep the lifesaving drug naloxone on hand in case of accidental fentanyl overdoses. Unfortunately, high schools around the country have been experiencing this. In October, a student overdosed at a Los Angeles school during regular class hours. A few weeks later, Prince George's County, across the US, Maryland suffered a string of overdoses in public high schools.
California Needs To Cope With Fentanyl Influx
California, in its quest to slow and end the opioid epidemic, is trying to tackle every angle. The new law would require schools in California to have at least two doses of emergency drugs such as a naloxone inhaler or canister. However, two doses may not be enough if a student overdoses on pure fentanyl. Most students who have overdosed don't even realize that their drug could be tainted, and their bodies can't handle
Fentanyl has been found in all street drugs, from cocaine and meth to Oxy and heroin. However, prevention of overdoses starts with education, and there seems to be a deficit when it comes to kids understanding the dangers of tainted street drugs.
Getting Naloxone for Fentanyl Overdoses into the Schools
No one wants to think of schools as a place where young possessing drugs. But that has always been the reality, regardless of the measures schools and local law enforcement take to prevent it. Many students who overdose don't know what they are taking- California is flush with fentanyl and counterfeit pills.
Schools are a place where drug education and mitigation can take place. But they are also where kids sell and swap drugs in their spare time. Adding naloxone to schools to prevent overdoses was a bipartisan measure with little opposition. The issue will come down to funding and costs. Fentanyl can be costly to keep in stock.
California has had trouble funding other programs that help with opioid use disorder. There have been wait lists for supplies of naloxone, an opioid-overdose reversal drug that can help save lives. It's recommended that anyone who uses opioids or takes them regularly should keep a supply of Naloxone on hand in case of accidental overdose. This means that schools will havesavekeep a steady supply and money will be needed.
Which Schools Need To Prevent Fentanyl Overdoses?
Fentanyl is a threat to all high schools and junior high schools. Young people frequently experiment with drugs without knowing the hazards. Naloxone will be required on all of the more than 10,000 K-12 campuses in California once the bill is signed into law. Implementation would begin with middle and high schools.
Some larger school districts in Los Angeles, Sacramento, and Fresno already stock naloxone, but for the plan to succeed, the state must fund the initiative. Naloxone can be expensive, especially when it needs restocking.
Legislators also want to be able to offer schools naloxone training, opioid abuse education, and fentanyl education. Many young people don't know about the dangers of street drugs when it comes to fentanyl. Adding education to student health classes can help save lives.
Living Substance-Free in San Diego
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