One Pill Can End a Life: Talk to Your Children Today
An Urgent Community Message Regarding Youth Overdose
Many thanks to contributing partners: Big Valley Rancheria, the City of Clearlake, the City of Lakeport, Clearlake Police Department, the County of Lake, Kelseyville Unified School District, Konocti Unified School District Lake County Behavioral Health Services, Lake County Health Services (Public Health Division), Lake County Office of Education, Lake County Probation, Lake County Sheriff’s Office, Lake County Tribal Health Consortium, Lakeport Police Department, Lakeport Unified School District, Lucerne Elementary School District, Middletown Unified School District, and Upper Lake Unified School District
Lake County, CA (December 1, 2023) – Members of the public will be aware multiple incidents of youth opioid overdose have recently occurred in Lake County communities. Each is a tragic and stark reminder consumption of drugs, even once, can prove fatal. With the rise of Fentanyl, Xylazine and similar chemical compounds, events such as these have become far too common. Families, school cohorts and communities are rocked to the core, and we grieve with those most affected.
Opioid misuse and overdose is a national public health crisis. In 2022, more than 100,000 people died due to overdose in the United States. 79 were Lake County residents. Fentanyl contributed to most of these incidents. People of all ages are at risk, including our communities’ youth.
Despite evidence even one-time use can be deadly, young people may misuse prescription opioids due to curiosity or peer pressure. Unintentional ingestion of opioids, including fentanyl, has likewise brought devastating results. In some of these cases, prescription drugs were not securely stored in households.
Among youth and young adults aged 15 to 24, the average annual overdose death rate is12.6 out of every 100,000. Counterfeit (fake) pills were to blame for nearly a quarter of poisoning and overdose deaths among adolescents aged 10-19.
Fake pills are widely available for purchase in the illicit drug market. Teens acquire them through social media platforms, such as TikTok and Snapchat. Pills are made to look like real prescription drugs such as Oxycodone or Xanax. However, they commonly include a deadly amount of illicit Fentanyl.
“It is critically important we educate our youth on the dangers of drug use,” states Elise Jones, Lake County’s Behavioral Health Services Director. “Nearly all youth who use drugs do not expect to die. Experimenting with drugs is dangerous and common. Discussing Naloxone with your child is an essential complement to encouraging them not to misuse drugs.”
Naloxone is Safe and Saves Lives
“Naloxone (Narcan nasal spray) is a remarkably safe medicine, designed to be given by bystanders witnessing a possible overdose in a person who has collapsed whose breathing is stopping,” states Lake County’s Public Health Officer, Noemi Doohan, MD, PhD, MPH. “Like CPR, Naloxone is a tool to help a good Samaritan save a life. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administrationdo not have age limits on who may receive naloxone.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics’ parent information website HealthyChildren.orgstates, “There is virtually no downside to giving naloxone to a child or teen, even if youare not sure if they overdosed on opioids.”
“The Lake County Office of Education works closely with the County of Lake’s Health Services Department to ensure Narcan is available on all school campuses in Lake County,” affirms Brock Falkenberg, Lake County Superintendent of Schools.
Fentanyl and other potentially life-threatening opioids are present in Lake County, and that clear and present threat demands a response.
“If your child had a life-threatening allergy, you would have an EpiPen on hand,” relates Jones. “If your child had diabetes, you would always have insulin or glucagon at the ready. Similarly, if your child is exposed to fentanyl or other opioids, it’s important to have naloxone available.”
“Naloxone is not a comprehensive solution to the opioid addiction epidemic,” continues Jones. “It does not treat opioid addiction. However, the availability of naloxone at our schools, and in our homes, can prove lifesaving.”
“One pill can end a life,” emphasizes Falkenberg. “Please talk to your children today about the dangers of substance abuse.”
Myths and Facts about Naloxone
Myth: Naloxone prevents people from seeking treatment.
Fact: Studies have shown Naloxone does not keep people in active addiction from seeking treatment. For many people, surviving an overdose motivates them to seek treatment.
Myth: Having Naloxone on hand means you are more likely to try or use opiates
Fact: To date, no studies have demonstrated increased opioid use due to Naloxone availability.
If you are concerned your child (or someone you know) may be experimenting with opioids, seek help. Lake County Health Services (707-263-1090), Behavioral Health Services (707-274-9101 or 707-994-7090) and school staff can connect you to appropriate resources.
For more information on Naloxone, visit, https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/featured-topics/naloxone.html. This short CDC video can increase your comfort level in preparing yourself to respond to an overdose: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=odlFtGNjmMQ&t=1s.