The opioid epidemic endangering youth across the country

Fentanyl usage continues to increase at an alarming rate


Photo by Ava Harris

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that can be 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine. Fentanyl is one of the biggest contributors to fatal and nonfatal overdoses in the United States. 

There are two types of Fentanyl: pharmaceutical and illicitly manufactured Fentanyl. They’re both considered synthetic opioids, but pharmaceutical fentanyl is prescribed by doctors to treat patients when they’re in severe pain, especially after surgeries. 

The illicitly manufactured Fentanyl is available on the drug market in forms like powder and liquid. When drugs become laced with fentanyl, they become extremely dangerous. Most people don’t know the drugs they’re taking are laced with fentanyl.

In Ventura County, overdose deaths have risen dramatically since 2020. In just one year,  the deaths increased from 149 to 217. In the same year, the deaths relating to Fentanyl overdoses increased from 33 to 87. 

But why have sudden Fentanyl cases spiked across the county? 

While we have dealt with painful epidemics and spikes in illicit drug use before, there are elements of this crisis that are different,” said Tony Thurmond, State Superintendent of Public Instruction. “Often, teens think they are purchasing Adderall, OxyContin, Percocet or Xanax pills, but drug dealers are making these fake pills with the cheaper, stronger and deadlier synthetic drug Fentanyl.” 

Not only have there been warnings to teenagers to be aware of what they’re buying, but also warnings to parents and families to check their children’s Halloween candy before they eat anything.

Since the recent surge in deaths due to Fentanyl, nine out of 20 Ventura County School District schools have decided to carry Naloxone, one of the most effective tools to prevent opioid deaths. 

Throughout May, the Ventura County School District will work with many administrations and nurses to teach them about Fentanyl and Naloxone as well as create campaigns and spread awareness to help prevent the surge of deaths. 

A great number of high school and college students have been accessing the drug through social media or dark web purchases. A lot of the time, even drugs like Adderall and Xanax are laced with Fentanyl. 

Doctors highly recommend that parents talk to their teens about how to handle an encounter when drugs are offered over social media. “Parents need to discuss this with their kids and make sure they feel comfortable coming to them about it,” said Dr. Rose.

Studies have shown that when teens hear about the horror stories of overdoses, they want to become more informed about drug usage. It’s said that children who are openly exposed to anti-drug messages at home are less likely to become users.

The preventative measures to take against the opioid crisis can be a part of the HHS 5-Point Opioid Strategy: provide better services in research, treatment, pain management, prevention and recovery.

For those struggling with Fentanyl addiction, there are ways to get help

One of the first steps would be a detox; this will help your body to safely get rid of the fentanyl inside your body. This is to help deal with the physical and emotional withdrawal symptoms in the most comfortable way possible. 

Inpatient rehab is open for 24/7 care, which requires you to move into a hospital or residential facility during treatment. There, they would provide counseling, education, group therapy and medication as needed. 

Outpatient rehab would require you to attend virtual counseling (or onsite). This is similar to inpatient rehab but you are allowed to return home to a sober living environment after treatment. 

Aftercare is meant to set you up for lasting recovery. It is continuing care that enforces accountability and community support after completing formal treatment. This would consist of possible sober living environments and mutual help groups.