LOS ANGELES (KNX) – According to the CDC, over 150 people die in the United States every day from overdoses of synthetic opioids like fentanyl. Additionally, a report by the L.A. County Department of Public Health found that overdose deaths from synthetic opioid fentanyl increased in Los Angeles County over a five-year period ending in 2021, with fatalities up by by 1,280%
It was also the focus of KNX News’ town hall Tuesday night, “Deadly High: Teens and Fentanyl.”
For Amy Neville, the topic of fentanyl is personal. Her 14-year-old son, Alexander, got a pill from a dealer on Snapchat.
“I walked into Alexander’s room to find him what looked like he was sleeping on his floor except for he was blue and he was gone,” she recalled during the town hall. “He was lifeless.”
“What scares me is that it’s so potent, so deadly that it takes a mistake, an experiment to kill someone,” Nathaniel Shin, a North Hollywood High School senior said.
Shin, who is also a student representative on the LAUSD Board of Education, was one of many panelists during the town hall. Another panelist was Ava Boris, a Van Nuys High School senior and member of Superintendent’s Youth Advisory Council, who believes there’s been a marginalization in the way drugs impacts teenagers.
“It’s the kids looking for the quick high…the party people, but really, we’re putting much more social pressures and academic pressures on kids that I know students seeking things like Adderall for performance to compete better in their high schools,” she said.
When it comes to drug prevention, LAUSD Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said programs like Just Say No and the War on Drugs are “failed experiments.”
Dr. Scott Hadland, Chief of Adolescent & Young Adult Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital for Children, addiction medicine specialist & professor, Harvard Medical School
“We need a multi-pronged approach that actually makes sense and is research-endorsed,” he said.
Providing facts about fentanyl is something Dr. Scott Hadland, Chief of Adolescent & Young Adult Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital for Children and addiction medicine specialist & professor for Harvard Medical School, said needs to be included when educating teens about the dangers of the drug.
“We need to have careful, balanced, fact-driven conversations with teens about the actual harms and we need to be realistic so that they believe us when it matters,” he explained.