The Dangers of Fentanyl

The misuse of fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid, among high school students has become a growing concern in recent years. In 2022, a 15-year-old girl passed away from a suspected fentanyl overdose at Bernstein High School located in Hollywood. This can be a possibility here at Hamilton High School, but it’s one the school would like to try its best to prevent by cautioning and informing students of the dangers of fentanyl or opioid use. 

Fentanyl use among teenagers can have severe impacts, such as respiratory issues, depression, coma, addiction, and death.  In Los Angeles County, 92 percent of teens who died of drug overdoses in 2021 tested positive for fentanyl, a county report found. That same year 31 youths died from fentanyl overdoses just in L.A. County. 

Fentanyl can be laced and found into other drugs, such as pills, heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, and most commonly, in teens’ marijuana. In a recent presentation to parents about fentanyl awareness, Ms. Baxter suggested using fentanyl test strips to discover if any product has been laced. However, it is important to keep in mind, it does not detect all analogs of fentanyl.

Mr. Sloan, a health teacher at Hamilton, said it is important that staff can quickly respond to any overdose emergencies.

 “At least one staff in every building should carry Narcan to ensure swift action,” he said.

The school nurse said there is a process for staff to be able to use Narcan on students experiencing an overdose.

“Like any other medication on campus, there is a process for that with paperwork and video shops, for staff to be trained,” she said. She said she hopes to encourage more staff here at Hamilton to undergo this process and help be a walking preventative for an overdose. 

Some students said they were not aware of the effects of fentanyl, while others showed concern for its risks.

¨I pray to God that it never happens to anyone I’m close to or anyone that I love,” said Robert Mercado, an 11th grader in SAS. “It’s affected me seeing others around me die from it.” 

To help prevent harms from fentanyl, people can learn about its misuse. One place to start is in the slides from Ms. Baxter’s recent Coffee with the Principal. The information can give parents and students a chance to realize the signs of fentanyl use before it’s too late. 

Coffee with the Principal slides
Coffee with the Principal Slides

Assistant Principal Mr. Ace said it is important to respond to drug use not only with medication but also with counseling and support.

“Drugs in general are used to mask deeper pains and issues, so I want our students to have access to counselors and PSWs to provide support to whatever they’re going through in the game of life,” Mr. Ace said.

Here at Hamilton, the school health office, along with the wellness center staff, offers opportunities for teens who need help with substance abuse to be able to privately talk and seek free counseling with anyone at either location. 

The school nurse is operational during school hours and the wellbeing center can be visited on Tuesdays and Fridays from 8 am to 3:45 pm.  For quicker access, as mentioned by the youth educators and advisor at the wellbeing center, “There’s a link tree to websites and hotlines located on the Instagram handle @wellbeingcentersla where students can find posts with links dedicated to helping students fill their concerns about the many resources in the community, or if they want access to Narcan, without a prescription. If anyone’s seeking help with substance abuse, it’s recommended to come into the well-being center or call the toll-free # SASH (substance abuse service help) hotline at 1-844-804-7500.”

Additional reporting contributed by Alexander Garcia and Aiden Hibbert