San Diego Education Office working to prevent school drug use

Guest Commentary / Opinion / Our Readers Write:

There have been countless news stories regarding the opioid fentanyl, and the fact that San Diego is where the deadly drug is being smuggled through. DEA officials have said 85 percent of the illicit fentanyl entering the United States from Mexico is seized at San Diego-area border crossings.

Most recently, Border Patrol agents at the San Clemente station arrested a woman smuggling a massive 44 pounds of fentanyl. This preceded a 254-pound fentanyl seizure at the port of entry in Nogalas, the largest in California Border Patrol history and enough fentanyl to kill 57 million people.

Fentanyl is a powerful opioid pain medication. It is about 100 times more powerful than morphine, and about 50 times stronger than heroin. Fentanyl is being found mixed into almost every drug on the street, whether it be heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine, counterfeit pills and even marijuana. Tainted marijuana may be to blame for a recent rash of illness felt by some in the San Diego community, including some high school students who ingested tainted marijuana and needed to be taken to the hospital.

The CDC says fentanyl is now the drug most often involved in fatal overdoses across the country, accounting for more than 18,000, or almost 29 percent, of the 63,000 overdose fatalities in 2016. Ingesting drugs laced with fentanyl can cause respiratory arrest, unconsciousness, coma and death.

Luckily, there is a way to combat an opioid overdose. Naloxone, also known by the brand Narcan, can reverse an opioid overdose. This life-saving medication can be administered in two forms, an injection or a nasal spray.

Many local schools have trained their nurses and school police in the administration of Narcan, but when it comes to an overdose, minutes and even seconds matter. Since fentanyl is currently responsible for most of the overdose deaths in this country, we need to be proactive and not reactive when it comes to student safety and drug overdoses.

That is why the San Diego County Office of Education is working with partners like the DEA, and public health and community agencies, to prevent overdoses and deaths. The Office of Education is in the process of designing curriculum for use in classrooms, as well as exploring training teachers and nurses to use Narcan to reverse overdoses. Students are also playing a key part in this, through Friday Night Live clubs that focus on promoting healthy lifestyles free of alcohol, tobacco and other drug use among youth of all ages.

Mark Powell represents District 1 on the San Diego County Board of Education. He's also an adjunct professor at National University.

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