A teenager I know very well is heading south to the beaches for spring break this week, equipped with a toothbrush, clothes, condoms, and something new, a Narcan inhaler. This is not for himself but because he worries about others, in case he comes upon someone who isn’t breathing.
He reads the instructions carefully but knows there is no downside to spraying naloxone in an unresponsive person’s nose just as the Panama City police know that there is no downside to cameras and sniffing canines on the beach, just as throughout Florida, non-profit groups include the Pinellas County Opioid Task Force, Florida Harm Reduction Collective, and Recovery Epicenter Foundation distribute Narcan to businesses and potential victims.
Narcan can reverse an opioid overdose, but it wears off quickly, whereas fentanyl, which is 50 to 100 times more powerful than heroin, can last for days. This means repeated doses are needed and in the hospital, an intravenous naloxone drip.
SPRING BREAK DANGERS: 5 AMERICANS WHOSE VACATIONS ENDED IN DEATH
Drug overdose deaths continue to rise, over 100,000 per year, with the vast majority from fentanyl. Narcan is available in many places including pharmacy chains over the counter, but we need increased awareness and distribution.
What is going wrong? Why is this year different? Why am I worried? For one thing, our precious teens are sadder. In fact, a recent survey from the CDC revealed that almost 60 percent of teen girls have reported an episode of profound sadness over the past year.
I am concerned that this will translate to recklessness, as depressed teens try to liberate themselves from their negative feelings by partying on the beach. They may be more likely to flex their social muscles as an expression of freedom that the pandemic is over.
The problem is the risks, especially with the drug cartels flooding our country with synthetic opioids, advertising on social media, paying people to bring their “product” across the border, and advertising at high schools and colleges to lure students to come down to the border for a small fee to pick the drugs up and distribute them.
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The numbers are staggering. The DEA confiscated close to 400 million potentially lethal fentanyl pills (2 mg or more), last year alone. But there are many times that amount that escaped DEA detection. And the fentanyl is often disguised in a fake Xanax or Adderall or Oxycodone pill so that the teen doesn’t know what they are getting, and before they know it, they are subject to the strong effects of fentanyl.
Spring break has been around in the U.S. since the 1930s, but it is not what it used to be, not with the State Department issuing a travel advisory to six Mexican states.
This continued warning has to do with drugs as well as kidnappings and killings.
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Unfortunately, the problem is not limited to Mexico alone. It stretches across our southern coastlines, to where our teens are gathering.
Most of all, we need to talk to our teens, we need to do our best to connect in a meaningful way prior to departure. Our teens are going to travel to spring break but we still have a role to play to warn and to guide them.
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