California Wants Overdose Reversal Drug For Fentanyl ODs in Schools
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.
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Saul Caro, a San Diego resident, convicted of selling fentanyl to a man who subsequently overdosed, pleaded guilty to providing the fentanyl on June 1, 2022. At his sentencing hearing, more details of the case were revealed, showing that he was worried about the potency of the fentanyl he had acquired. The jury gave him 15 years.
Caro Knew Fentanyl He Sold Was Deadly
When Caro pleaded guilty on June 1, 2022, he admitted that he sold the highly potent fentanyl to a man the court recorder identified only as MS. Two days later, M.S. was dead. The victim, investigators discovered, had been worried about the potency of the drugs he had previously acquired from Caro. Not only did he think the fentanyl was too potent, but he told Caro that he needed to warn people about it. Caro lied, telling the victim he was. “Yeah thanks otherwise would have been bad news for me lol” (sic) the victim replied.
In November of that same year, the victim again contacted Caro and told him he was worried that the drugs had been altered somehow. The side effect, according to the texts from M.S., said it made his heart “slam.” “Ugh why the hell did they have to put that sh-- in here and ruin it!” he texted Caro. “He told me to be careful cuz its strong,” Caro replied.
Caro continued to supply drugs to the victim and others for months before M.S.’s death. The text messages showed that other drugs could have been mixed into the fentanyl. MS, an experienced opioid user, was uncomfortable with the side effects. Yet the victim has an opioid use disorder and continued buying drugs. Caro continued to sell the drugs even though he likely knew they could be deadly.
“The defendant chose to disregard the significant risk associated with selling fentanyl and other drugs,” said U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman. “His choices had severe consequences for a family that lost a beloved son and brother. The driving factor for all of us in law enforcement is the human toll that fentanyl is taking. We see the grief and destruction in person every day. We will continue to seek justice for every victim.”
Evidence In Fentanyl Overdose Case
The prosecution had much tangible evidence, enough that Caro pleaded guilty on June 1, 2022. He agreed that he sold powdered fentanyl, which led to the death of one of his customers. When they arrested Caro, he had a bag of powder with a greenish tint in his pants, which tested positive for fentanyl. In addition, when they searched his house, they found several guns, ammunition, other drugs, and drug paraphernalia.
Many cases like this have been going forward across the country, and the U.S. continues to battle the opioid epidemic. Opioids have been a leading cause of death in the United States in recent years. Over 100,000 people died from opioid-related overdoses last year, with most of the deaths involving fentanyl.
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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.
Young people in San Diego County, like around the US, have a problem with fentanyl. They’re not using it on purpose but instead are experimenting with drugs that somehow contain it. This is one reason younger people, including teenagers, are now dying at record numbers from overdose deaths.
Fentanyl is a drug typically used for people in severe pain, such as stage 4 cancer. It is also used as a sedative for surgeries. According to the CDC, the drug itself is 100 times more potent than morphine and 50 times stronger than heroin.
And now America has a fentanyl problem – not large amounts of people addicted to it, but large amounts of people dying after accidentally using it.
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.
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The addiction crisis is raging in San Diego during the times of the COVID-19 pandemic. Like many parts of the country, addiction rates have seen an uptick due to isolation and other stressors of the pandemic. San Diego has lost an average of three people a day to overdoses.
In 2020, the County reported 457 fentanyl-related overdose deaths, but not all opioid deaths are from fentanyl, and not all opioid deaths have yet been counted. A total of 722 meth users were lost to an overdose last year, up from 546 the previous year. A large number of prescription drug users – 576 – were lost to overdose as well.
All of these numbers are startling. In recovery, there have been many anecdotes of people with long-term sobriety relapsing. Relapse doesn't have to be a part of your story, even if you're struggling. And even if you DO relapse, you are welcome back to recovery with open arms.
Staying Supported During the Pandemic
Of course, life has been difficult for people of all walks of life during the pandemic. And for most of us, it’s not over. People who live with addiction especially need support during these times. Staying connected to other people in recovery can help you stay sober and sane.
San Diego offers many opportunities for recovery for those who embrace them. 12-step meetings, therapy online, and even peer support groups are incredibly valuable for people in recovery.
Lifesaving Services in San Diego For Drug Users
The Harm Reduction Coalition of San Diego County is one example of an organization that uses state grant money to help reduce the harmful dangers of addiction. They offer needle exchange services and the opioid-reversal drug, Narcan, to drug users to help them stay safe.
Harm Reduction Coalition of San Diego also offers fentanyl test strips, wound care, education, and referrals for healthcare.
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