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Campuses need to fight against fentanyl

Updated: Feb 16, 2023

Local governments need to address the rising fentanyl epidemic.

Opinion by Jasmine Alejandre, Special to the Star

Seven students at nearby Bernstein High School recently overdosed after they took drugs laced with fentanyl. One of the students, 15-year-old Melanie Ramos, never recovered. Her body was found in a campus restroom hours after her parents reported her missing. After the Sept. 13 death, the LAUSD authorities announced that an anti-overdose medication will be available to students starting this month, but this move is simply not enough.

The graph illustrates United States fentanyl deaths between the years of 2016-20. The data cited in the graph is from the National Safety Council. (Isaac Dektor/The Valley Star)

According to the CDC, fentanyl deaths are on the rise. Overdose death rates increased more than 56 percent from 2019 to 2020. Fentanyl is 50 times more powerful than morphine, and it is used to manage pain for cancer patients. Because this drug is so inexpensive, dealers buy large amounts at a small cost and make a huge profit from the narcotic. Most of the time, students think they’re buying Xanax or Percocet when they buy pills laced with fentanyl. Authorities reported this was the case with Ramos and her friends. They thought they were buying the common painkiller Percocet. Like many, the teens were mistaken, and the mistake cost Ramos her life.

“Fentanyl is the single deadliest drug threat that our nation has ever encountered,” according to the Drug Enforcement Agency Website, and it uses several street names such as Apace, China Town, Great Bear, and Poison among others.

If the problem with fentanyl is so big, then why are authorities not doing more? Our government and school districts need to do more to fight this drug epidemic.

In response to the recent death, the LAUSD announced that an anti-overdose medication, Narcan, will be available on campuses by October. It took too long for the district to take this small step, but it’s not enough. High school and college officials are letting down their students by not addressing this issue.

“We need to do better,” said Adaina Brown at an LAUSD safety meeting nine days after the death of Ramos. “We absolutely need to do better because we should not be here today. We should not be mourning the loss of a student.”

All campuses need to take better measures to prevent the death of their students. They need to start by educating students about Fentanyl. For starters, students should know what the pill looks like, how to spot an overdose and how and when to administer Narcan.

School officials need to create an environment where students feel safe talking about drug use, providing drug counseling. This counseling should be extended to parents, too. The LAUSD can implement daily bag and locker searches. Although it might prove unpopular, daily bag checks will likely save lives.

Though most victims who took the fentanyl laced pills survived, the incidents signal a greater problem. Synthetic opioids such as fentanyl make up 67 percent of America’s overdose deaths. The day Ramos passed away, paramedics were alerted to a similar situation in Lexington Park in Cerritos, where two other teenagers potentially overdosed.

The huge supply of fentanyl at the ready puts countless lives in danger, especially when students distribute drugs on campus and pills find their way to victims. Students who mistake the opioid, which is 80 to 100 times more powerful than morphine, will suffer grave consequences.


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