The New Crisis Facing American Teens

We were all educated about the danger of doing drugs, but drugs are changing, so it is important to stay educated. One such change is the recent rise of far more dangerous substances that are marketed as familiar, though still dangerous and illegal, drugs. The main cutting agent used by drug dealers is fentanyl, a powerful, potent, and cheap replacement for many types of drugs including: cocaine, LSD, heroin, prescription pills such as percocets, and even in marijuana vape cartridges. This is a wide array of different drugs cut with this substance, posing risk to anyone who chooses to use any drug. In fact, about 40% of pills seized by law enforcement contain levels of fentanyl that could be potentially lethal if someone were to consume it.

A fentanyl overdose could happen to any user, but deaths involving the substance are fastest growing among 14-23 year olds. This means that high schoolers are particularly at risk. When hearing about statistics such as this, it is easy to assume that those types of tragedies wouldn’t happen to you or your community. But, in an incident that happened over summer break, an anonymous Oakton high school student witnessed his friend, a young adult, overdose on pills that they later found out were laced with fentanyl. “We were all in a group hanging out, when they started falling asleep. We knew they had taken what we thought was a percocet.” While the group panicked about the situation, it only got worse. A friend began to help the person overdosing and called emergency services. Fearing the consequences of the police showing up, multiple group members fled the scene. “I left him there. He was overdosing and could have died.” The anonymous source struggles with the guilt of that decision every day. Luckily, emergency services arrived and the friend overdosing was saved, despite the time wasted not getting help.

This is not just a matter of statistics, it is the lives of people just like you that are at stake. Young adults and teenagers with their whole lives ahea
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d of them succumb to laced drugs every day nationwide. The CDC reports that between June 2021 and June 2022, there were almost 70,000 deaths due to synthetic opioid overdoses nationwide, and that number has been rapidly increasing for years. Fentanyl is involved in more deaths in Americans under 50 than any other cause of death. In Fairfax County alone, 111 fatal opioid overdoses were reported in 2021. 

In the instance of their friend overdosing, the anonymous source made wrong choices that put their friend’s life in danger, which is why it is incredibly important to know the signs of an overdose and to learn about what to do if you or someone you know is experiencing an overdose. Some signs to look out for are: a pale or clammy face, a change in breathing patterns, deep snoring or gurgling, becoming unresponsive, a slow or stopped heartbeat, and bluish purple or ashen skin or fingernails. If you notice any of these signs, it is vital that you seek the help of a qualified individual. If the situation seems life threatening, call 911 immediately. Good Samaritan drug laws provide immunity from arrest, charge, or prosecution for possession of drugs when somebody who is experiencing or witnessing an overdose calls emergency services. This is important to know, because any time wasted worrying about the consequences of being caught with illegal substances puts the person overdosing in more danger. 

The laced drug epidemic is showing no signs of slowing down, and so it is vital that information about this subject remains publicly available and that people are educated about the risks and effects. Stay informed and stay safe.