You often receive messages from the District informing you about upcoming events, changing COVID protocols, or other information it’s important for you to know. Today, we write to you about a different issue, a crisis across our nation that sadly has not received the press it deserves. A crisis that is affecting youth across the country and right here in Washington County.
Deaths from fake fentanyl pills are surging across the country as well as locally. In the past two years, many students in Oregon have died — teenagers who had hopes and dreams and plans. These teenagers had families who loved them and are still coming to grips with their losses.
One of these tragic losses was a student from Sunset High School in Beaverton named Cal. His parents have become strong advocates for creating awareness around this issue and have courageously shared Cal’s story in this YouTube video. After you finish reading this message, please take seven minutes to watch this video, and if appropriate, share this video with your children. Warning: this video may act as a trigger for some who have experienced challenges like this in their lives.
This crisis is distinctly different from what we might traditionally think of when we hear of overdose deaths. We often think of overdose deaths affecting addicts who buy drugs on the street and either accidentally take a lethal dose or purchase substances cut with Fentanyl. Those deaths are tragic, should not be minimized, and certainly need our attention and energy as a society and as a community. But this is a different type of crisis.
Teens who are not addicts and who are not involved in the drug culture may still purchase pills — often to deal with mental health issues, pain from an injury, or maybe just seeking a high for the first time. They think they are purchasing relatively safe pharmaceuticals such as OxyContin, Percocet, or Xanax pills via social media.
However, pharmaceutical grade drugs are expensive and hard to come by, so drug dealers are selling fake pills with the cheaper, stronger, and more deadly synthetic drug called fentanyl as the active ingredient. Fentanyl is up to 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine. Fentanyl is odorless, tasteless, and colorless. The pills look identical in color, shape, and labeling to those produced by labs. Teens never know what they’re getting, and just one fake pill can kill them.
You may be thinking to yourself, “my child isn’t caught up in the drug culture” or “my child wouldn’t even know where to get something like that.” Does your child have a cell phone? Is your child on social media platforms like Snapchat, TikTok, or Instagram? If the answer is “yes,” they likely do know about teen drug culture and may have access. Much like the vaping epidemic that we have been experiencing since 2018, parents are often the last to know.
The Sherwood School District is launching an awareness plan to combat this problem. The first phase is a public information campaign to help educate families about this issue, so they can talk to their children about this topic and monitor their students’ social media and activities in an informed way. The second phase of the campaign will begin later this spring in our schools, where we will be teaching lessons directly to students about the dangers of Fentanyl and fake pills. Please watch for updates in the coming weeks with more information about these lesson plans.
If you’d like to learn more about this issue, here are some additional resources that you may want to review or share with your children.