The widespread use of fentanyl is leading to more drug overdoses in children across the nation and, in San Diego County, the trend is prompting education leaders to push for putting Narcan into local schools, an antidote used to treat an overdose in emergencies.
The San Diego Board of Education addressed the issue at a meeting Monday. Mark Powell, vice president of the San Diego Board of Education, said there is a need for action on this dangerous matter at schools across the county.
“We’re in a new era of drug abuse,” Powell said at the meeting, adding that, currently, the No. 1 crime in San Diego County is drug trafficking and drug abuse.
Powell said that in September 2018 two students at a local high school were rushed to the hospital after using marijuana tainted with other drugs. These days, marijuana as well as synthetic marijuana commonly known as “spice” can be laced with different drugs, including fentanyl. The same can happen with counterfeit pills.
Fentanyl is a narcotic used to treat severe pain and is highly addictive. When taken in high doses or with other drugs, it can cause effects like respiratory distress, unconsciousness and even death.
Powell said Naloxone, an antidote commonly known as Narcan, can combat the effects of drug overdoses. Narcan is administered in two forms: in a nasal spray or injection.
“If a student – or anybody – is experiencing overdose of fentanyl, this is the drug that will save their lives,” said Powell.
Powell said some nurses in San Diego-area schools are currently trained in the administration of Narcan but if that nurse is not available in the moment when a student is experiencing an overdose, it could mean the difference between life and death. That child may have to wait for treatment until paramedics arrive.
“Minutes and even seconds can be life-saving,” he added.
To that end, Powell said the San Diego County Board of Education wants to look into training every school administrator in the proper use of Narcan. They also want to provide training to every school staffer on how to recognize the signs of a drug overdose in a student.
“Gone unchecked, our students can die,” he said. “We need to make sure that they’re properly trained in identifying the symptoms of an overdose and that they have the Narcan available, with them, because we don’t want it sitting in a desk somewhere.”
The board is also working on a curriculum designed to help educate parents and students on drugs like fentanyl and the deadly dangers that come with them.
The proposed plan to combat student overdoses on a local level is still in the beginning stages but, if approved, Narcan would be available in all schools across every district in San Diego County.