We Do(n’t) have a Fentanyl Problem

Last Night as I was getting ready for bed I stumbled across an ABC Nightline report Hidden Epidemic: US fentanyl crisis worsens. This video not only frightened me but it also broke my heart. In this report, ABC not only highlights several recent fentanyl overdoses in the Los Angeles area but they emphasize how this fentanyl crisis is really affecting families and communities. One of the more heartbreaking stories was the story of a 15-year-old girl who overdosed in the bathroom of a Los Angels high school. The superintendent of the Los Angels School District detailed how bad the crisis is getting and he said “this is just the tip of the iceberg”. Furthermore, the problem is so horrible that the school district is supplying Narcan to every k-12 school in the district.  That is just so scary that the crisis has reached this point where now school nurses and counselors are becoming almost drug clinical workers and the students are living with this normalcy of overdose.  Framing this crisis as hidden and saying it is just the tip of the iceberg almost assumes that these policymakers and school leaders are waving their white flags to the crisis. Therefore, it seems that there is no proactive solution being offered rather only reactive solutions appear to exist for these decision-makers. I am not going to sit here and say I have the solution but I believe and do know for a fact that the solution is not reacting to more overdoses by just putting Narcan in schools. Thus the proactive solution I am beginning to propose is we need to educate children on drugs and how to use drugs safely. And not just in California but in America as a whole.

America has and continues to fail its children in educating them on substances and substance use. For far too long America’s drug pedagogy of “Just say no” has devastated this country’s most vulnerable. To think children and adolescents won’t try drugs is just immature and ignorant. We live in a world that encourages substance use and risky behaviors. This message is on every media platform and children are introduced to it at very young ages on their ipads and tablets. Children are curious, so the answer will never be just saying no. The solution needs to be focused on the children’s curiosity. You create this focus by fostering an environment that allows children to be curious about these substances and to have productive and educational conversations about drugs and their use. Children should know what drugs are, their effects, their possible consequences, their potency, and how to safely use them. These conversations are not to encourage drug use but moreover, preserve life and keep children safe. 

Another facet of the solution I propose is we need to regulate drugs better. Because we have this say no policy to drugs it has bled into the way regulate drugs. Meaning, the way we police drugs in this country is just to say no drugs and we more or less have banned them. By taking this stance there is no way to regulate the “hard drugs” people are taking, so people are taking dirty, cut up, and stepped on drugs that are way more harmful and unsafe to take. And we are seeing that happen with this “fentanyl crisis” kids are taking fentanyl when they are thinking they are taking drugs that aren’t as potent or deadly. We regulate how people use alcohol, and smoke tobacco in this country, and in several states, we regulate how people use cannabis, so why do we not do it for other substances? I have many theories on why we do not but I will save those for another time. However, it is America’s failure to regulate substances that America has turned its back on its people to let them die. So America does not have a fentanyl problem, it has an education and a regulation problem. We need better drug education and we need to legalize substances so we can regulate the drugs people are taking to ensure we are preserving life. 

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