Amid a growing opioid crisis, one Florida nonprofit is starting a movement to educate students about the dangers of fentanyl.
Not Even Once, an initiative of the Incubate Foundation, will give presentations in middle and high school assemblies, warning students about the dangers of fentanyl so they “will know to never try drugs, not even once.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control, drug overdose deaths have dramatically risen in the past few years, with fentanyl accounting for 71,000 deaths – 66% of all overdose fatalities in 2021.
In medical settings, fentanyl is used to treat severe pain, since it’s 100 times more powerful than morphine. However, just 2 milligrams of the substance – equivalent to 10-15 grains of salt – can be lethal, according to Jacob Galvan, a federal Drug Enforcement Administration agent.
But when the Incubate Foundation did a survey of Florida high school students, it found a mere 30% had been taught about the dangers of fentanyl in school.
James Fishback, spokesperson for Not Even Once, blamed the tragic increase in adolescent overdoses on this ignorance.
“The survey illustrates why young people continue to perish from this poison,” Fishback wrote in an article for South Central Florida Life. “They are woefully unaware of the danger of lethal fentanyl.
“Incubate’s overarching goal is to empower young people to do extraordinary things, and it can’t do that when fentanyl is killing countless young Floridians,” he added.
While middle and high school students are certainly at risk for drug overdose, fentanyl is killing children of all ages, even infants.
Numerous stories of infants and toddlers dying of fentanyl overdoses have been reported by the media in recent years. Researchers estimate fentanyl deaths in America have tripled among children aged 1-4 and quadrupled for ages 5-14.
In another op-ed for the Orlando Sentinel, Fishback praised President Biden for addressing the fentanyl crisis in his State of the Union address, but said education was only half the problem.
“It’s time to put words into action,” he wrote. “Our nation must inform teens about counterfeit pills made with fentanyl; secure our Southern border, across which nearly half of fentanyl comes; and take a hardline stance on China to crack down on the manufacturing of fentanyl ingredients.”
While some legislatures, such as in Texas, are working to require fentanyl training for teachers, more work will be required on many fronts to address the rising crisis.