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Opioid overdoses increase among youth population


LAUSD confronts crisis

Drug overdoses have plagued youth nationwide for various reasons and from influences from different industries. The drug overdoses committed by youth from the ages of 12-18 are associated with the drug fentanyl, among others. The reason for the spike in overdose incidents can be connected to a multitude of issues beginning with a person’s home environment and extending to daily peer pressure at school.

Fentanyl, the deadly synthetic opioid, has taken the lives of more than 1,500 youth under the age of 20 in 2021 alone. Experts point to teenagers unknowingly ingesting the illegal drug, assuming it is other opioids like Xanax or Percocets.

“That’s primarily the story of what’s happening among teenagers,” said pediatrician and addiction provider Sarah Bagley of the Boston University Chobanian & Avedisian School of Medicine. “People are not anticipating that they are going to be exposed to fentanyl, and then they are, and that results in an overdose.”

The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) has also seen an uptick in their students exploring and committing overdoses with various drugs. Some youth, unfortunately, have faced fatal  consequences. On Sept. 22, 2022, a teenage girl died of a fentanyl overdose at Bernstein High School in Hollywood. The girl was found unresponsive in the high school bathroom after her friend, who also suffered from an overdose, called her stepfather and told him what happened. The police quickly responded and saved the child that called her stepfather as they were already in the area investigating six drug-related overdoses that happened at Lexington Park on the same day.

On Thursday, Dec. 2, 2022, seven students at a  Van Nuys middle school were hospitalized after overdosing on an unknown substance and experiencing “mild-to-moderate distress”, the Los Angeles Fire Department said in a release. In total, ten students experienced the same reaction to the unknown substance, but three were released from the hospital the same day.

This month, seven students were hospitalized after overdosing on an unidentified narcotic at Johnnie Cochran Middle School in Los Angeles Arlington Heights. Los Angeles EMTs responded to reports of at least three children “with altered levels of consciousness after possible exposure or ingestion of a yet unknown substance,” the department said. Students were administered Narcan, with the assumption that opioids were taken. They were transported to the local hospital, where the children arrived conscious and breathing in minor to moderate medical distress, officials reported.

L.A. Unified School Superintendent Alberto Carvalho used the incident to encourage students and parents to report safety issues.

“We remain hopeful for a full recovery of our students … who suffered from a medical incident earlier today,” Carvalho said. “I urge everyone in our school community to download the LASAR app to anonymously report instances of suspicious activity, mental health incidents, drug consumption, drug trafficking, vandalism, and other safety concerns.”

Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass also spoke on the recent drug overdoses at schools. “ In the past two weeks, we’ve seen near-death overdoses at an LAUSD middle school, the death of a mother, and critical injury of her child as they walked to school. These devastating incidents are unacceptable,” Bass said.