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The Aquilian

The Aquilian

    A terror haunting the DMV youth: opioids

    Prescription opioid pills that are commonly responsible for opioid addiction

    The presence of opioid addiction in the United States is no breaking story. Millions of Americans have died from overdose since the drugs first became prevalent in the United States in the early 2000s. The more recent rise of fentanyl and fentanyl laced substances only worsened a situation that was already out of hand. A drug that’s estimated to be 50 times stronger than heroin is practically a touch of death for many that come into contact with it. 

    This epidemic has now spread among the youth, and high school students in the DMV are no exception. Just last month a student at Wakefield High School in Arlington, Va. passed out dead in the school bathroom from an overdose. He was a freshman. 

    This is just one of many examples of overdoses that have occurred in our area recently. Montgomery County announced they have already had to administer narcan, a nasal spray used to treat narcotic overdoses 11 times since the beginning of the school year. Data collected over the last two years in the county shows a 78 percent increase in youth overdoses from 2021 to 2022, recording 48 overdoses with 11 of them resulting in death.

    More broadly, northern Virginia as a whole has been struggling with the opioid crisis. State data says there were 289 hospital visits last year in Northern Virginia for overdose related incidents involving people 18 and younger. 

    Ongoing incidents similar to the one described are finally prompting school counties to take initiative. Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) and Arlington Public Schools (APS) are among the various school districts leading the charge.

    MCPS recently began holding “forums for families about fentanyl and naloxone training” along with promising that “Naloxone (Narcan) kits will be distributed to the families in attendance.”

    In response to the Wakefield High School incident and the eight youth overdoses the county experienced last year, APS vows to place a “big emphasis on stocking Narcan in all APS schools, and training staff on how to use it.” 

    With such a high frequency of overdoses occurring in our area, one could consider Gonzaga fortunate to have not yet had its own incident. Mrs. Amy Harper, school nurse, detailed Gonzaga’s own preparation for such an occurrence. 

    “When I came here three years ago, I noticed you guys did not have narcan at Gonzaga, so I talked with Mr. [Jim] Kilroy and Mr. [Tom] Every about bringing it because I had it at my old school at St Alban’s,” Mrs. Harper said.

    After successfully gaining permission to bring the life-saving drug on campus, Narcan is now stored in four places around the school.

    “I have it in my office, the AED box in the Carmody Center and the AED box when you first walk into Kohlmann. The athletic trainers have it, as well,” Mrs. Harper said.

    AED box in Kohlman containing narcan. Photo by Daniel Colucci

    As far as actually having to use narcan in the case of an overdose, all faculty recently received training on how to properly administer the drug. This training, paired with the relatively simple method of administering narcan, creates a basic foundation of preparation for Gonzaga to  handle an overdose.

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      Carol CorganMar 13, 2023 at 9:28 am

      Daniel, thanks for this article. The information is so important to disseminate.
      Mrs. Corgan