Fentanyl overdoses cause LCPS schools to issue the use of NARCAN.


Photo via Wikimedia Commons

With fentanyl use threatening communities, LCPS takes a step to prevent opioid overdoses with the help of NARCAN. 

Fentanyl overdoses are on the rise in the US, and a spike in overdose cases has resulted in schools issuing the use of NARCAN, educating families on the dangers of the drug, and training nurses and administrators to use NARCAN. 

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is most commonly used to treat pain. However, it has a high risk for addiction and dependency, which is the reason for many overdoses. It is 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine, according to the CDC. NARCAN (Naloxone HCI) is a nasal spray designed to help reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. Schools are stocking up on NARCAN to ensure easy access in case of an emergency because even in small doses, fentanyl can have fatal effects. 

More and more opioid overdoses have been seen around Loudoun County. According to the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office (LCSO), “there have been four fatalities out of nine opioid-related overdoses in Loudoun County so far this year. Four of those overdoses were juveniles. In 2022, there were 14 fatalities out of 66 opioid-related overdoses. Seventeen of those overdoses were juveniles, including two fatalities.” 

These numbers are the reason Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) is being proactive in educating families about the dangers of fentanyl. LCPS held opioid and fentanyl awareness sessions to inform parents about the dangers of the drug throughout February and March. In these sessions, sheriffs from the Loudoun County Police Department spoke about drugs and ways to prevent overdoses. “The fact that you are seeing a public recognition that it is an issue in our area, even if we haven’t seen it first hand yet, doesn’t mean it’s not an issue,” said principal Dr. Brandon Wolfe.

Furthermore, LCPS is “prepared for the risk of potential overdoses by stocking NARCAN at each middle and high school and training staff at each school to administer the treatment: according to their website. 

 “Obviously, it’s scary; nothing has impacted us in the school as of yet, but the possibility that it could is unnerving,” said Wolfe. “It’s the first time in my career that there has been serious drug overdose training, so if it happens, we can protect students. It’s new to be at this level of intervention. It’s great that we are issuing NARCAN, but it’s also unsettling.” 

Opioid related overdoses rose from 2019 to 2021, according to the National Institute Of Health. “Overall, with the Fentanyl epidemic, it’s an opioid which is an addictive substance,” said LCPS School Resource Officer (SRO), Deputy Mitchell Divley. “Fentanly being legally made, and easy to conceal, is spreading across the nation and it’s easily trafficked, which is why we are seeing a rise in overdoses. It’s legally shipped and sold in the US. Fentanyl is also being disguised in various forms as press pills or mixed with other substances.” 

Nursing staff and the school administrators have all received NARCAN training in case of an emergency. “We had staff members from the LCPS Health Department come, and train our staff on how to use NARCAN. We also have NARCAN through the building, so if we ever have to use them, they’re always there,” said Wolfe. 

Easy access isn’t the only factor contributing to the epidemic; influence from peers and social media play a part in the rise of overdose numbers. “I think it’s multiple things that are contributing to this epidemic. As adults, we have to be responsible for what is in our medicine cabinet and that we are not allowing our children to take things. It’s also unfortunate that kids are experimenting with drugs without being aware that one pill can be fatal,” said Denise Twining, school nurse. “When doctors prescribe medication they should be very careful and aware of how much they’re giving.”

There are ways that even you can help those who are struggling with overdose recovery.