Due to a disturbing rise in drug overdoses and deaths among children, parents in Arlington County, Virginia, are petitioning the juvenile court system for intervention.
This drastic measure is a response to increased fentanyl use among middle and high school students in public schools over the past two years.
Panelists on the court have advised parents to look for signs of opioid use in their children as the community takes immediate steps to broaden access to substance abuse treatment.
How The Community Is Responding To Fentanyl Overdoses In Schools
After a community forum featuring speakers including psychiatrists, social workers, and addiction treatment experts, several suggestions were made to help address this issue in APS.
Community Conversations On Substance Abuse And Opioids
APS has planned to provide staff and families with information on how to recognize the signs of addiction, and how to start conversations with students on the dangers of opioid abuse.
Narcan Nasal Spray Availability
Schools are also preparing to make the opioid overdose reversal drug Narcan more widely available throughout the county.
There will be personnel at each school that are trained to administer this treatment, with additional classes on recognizing the signs of opioid use, addiction, overdose, and more.
Some Arlington high schools are open to allowing students to bring Narcan to school, but this change would have to be made legislatively or through regulation from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Signs And Symptoms Of Opioid Use Disorder
If you suspect that a loved one may be abusing opioids or other drugs, you may wonder how you can spot the signs of substance abuse.
Drug paraphernalia is any equipment used to produce, conceal, or consume an illicit substance.
Examples of paraphernalia may include glass pipes, miniature spoons, bongs, cigarette papers, razor blades, hollowed-out pen tubes, syringes, and small mirrors with white powder residue.
Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid that is up to 100 times stronger than morphine. It works by binding to the brain’s opioid receptors, which control pain and emotions.
Fentanyl’s effects may include extreme euphoria, drowsiness, nausea, confusion, sedation, breathing problems, and unconsciousness.
Adolescents who are abusing fentanyl or other drugs may exhibit a number of behavioral issues.
These may include:
- drop in school attendance
- engaging in secretive or suspicious behavior
- an abrupt change in hobbies or friend groups
- uncharacteristic irritability or apathy
Factors That Influence The Rise In Overdose Deaths
Parent groups have become increasingly alarmed by the overdose deaths of at least three Arlington Public School (APS) students since Christmas 2022.
School administrators have said that it’s unclear as to whether drug use among students is increasing, or if the nature of the substances being used has changed and led to increased danger.
Below are some of the factors that may be influencing the increase in opioid abuse among children.
Mental Health Issues
The Kaiser Family Foundation states that the COVID-19 pandemic may have worsened or exacerbated existing mental health issues among children.
People with untreated mental health disorders are more likely to abuse drugs or alcohol in an effort to self-medicate and alleviate their symptoms.
Polysubstance abuse occurs when two or more substances are intentionally or unintentionally taken together over a short period of time.
Intentional polysubstance use is when someone ingests a substance to counteract or heighten the effects of a different drug.
Unintentional polysubstance use occurs when a person uses a drug, such as oxycodone, that has been cut with another substance such as illicit fentanyl without their knowledge.
Counterfeit Prescription Drugs
Many fentanyl-related deaths are blamed in part on the synthetic opioid being added to fake prescription drugs such as Adderall, a focus-enhancing drug common among teenagers.
Counterfeit drugs are very dangerous because a person will think that they’re taking a prescription medication when it actually contains a fatal dose of fentanyl.
Fake prescription pills can be hard to spot, but some telltale signs of a counterfeit include spelling errors in the drug name, compromised packaging, and a cracked or crumbly appearance.
Rates Of Substance Abuse Among Adolescents
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released data that shows that fatal overdoses among American children have more than doubled in the past two years.
A total of 1,808 adolescent overdose deaths occurred between the months of July 2019 and December 2021. In that time period, 91% of deaths involved at least one opioid drug.
Addiction Treatment Options
There are several effective treatment options for adults and adolescents battling addiction.
Drug and alcohol treatment services may include:
- medically monitored detox
- inpatient rehab programs
- outpatient treatment
- sober living homes
- behavioral therapy
- medication-assisted treatment (MAT)
- dual diagnosis treatment for co-occurring mental health disorders
Find Substance Use Disorder Treatment Today
For more information about drug addiction and treatment services reach out to FreeRehabCenters.net today.
Published on March 22, 2023
Free Rehab Centers aims to provide only the most current, accurate information in regards to addiction and addiction treatment, which means we only reference the most credible sources available.
These include peer-reviewed journals, government entities and academic institutions, and leaders in addiction healthcare and advocacy. Learn more about how we safeguard our content by viewing our editorial policy.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
- Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF)
- The Washington Post
- WTOP News