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The opioid epidemic is surging, fed by the damage and isolation inflicted by the COVID pandemic. Teens are its latest victims. Fentanyl and other synthetic opioids, made in China and India and distributed by Mexico’s transnational criminal organizations are the tools.
What can parents do? Talk to your teens. Know about their social media presence. Be on the lookout for sudden changes in behavior. Is this enough? Tragically, not always.
Narcan, the opioid antidote, is available over the counter. We need to get into the hands of not just emergency responders but the public too. And then there’s Suboxone, which lasts a lot longer. You can put it under your tongue and it places you on the road to recovery from addiction. But Suboxone is prescription only, and even doctors need special certification to prescribe it.
CALIFORNIA TEEN’S DEATH FROM FENTANYL UNDERSCORES DANGER OF SOCIAL MEDIA DRUG MARKETS
It’s been more than a year since Chris and Laura Didier found their 17-year-old son slumped over his desk inside their home near Sacramento.
“How does a vibrant, healthy, physically capable 17-year-old just no longer live?” his father, Chris Didier, told Fox News. “Chris just said, ‘our baby’s gone,'” his mother, Laura Didier said.
Zach Didier died of fentanyl poisoning in December 2020 after taking what he thought was a single Percocet pill.
But fentanyl is up to 100 times more powerful than morphine. A recent study by the Journal of the American Medical Association found that fentanyl involved fatalities among adolescents ages 14 to 18 have skyrocketed every year since 2019.
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Zach, a straight-A student and musician, was said to be a first-time user who bought the drug on Snapchat, joining many who consume fentanyl without their knowledge as fentanyl is easily disguised as another drug. It looks like you are getting Adderall or Percocet, but you are really getting a deadly fentanyl-laced product.
Anne Milgram, a DEA administrator, told Fox News that “The criminal drug cartels in Mexico are doing is they are making pills to look exactly like an Oxy, a Percocet, Vicodin, Xanax. Just two milligrams of fentanyl is enough to kill someone that’s 10 or 20 tiny crystals of salt.”
Apps like Snapchat are essentially an open market for the sale and purchase of drugs. Milgram said that, “young people are on social media. It’s often anonymous and it is accessible and easy.”
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In 2021 the Drug Enforcement Agency seized more than 20 million counterfeit pills.
Laura and Chris Didier turned their grief into activism.
“We’ve got to talk about the dangers that our kids are being exposed to,” Laura said. “What if in our warning and in sharing our story, we can save some of these other kids and we knew it’s what Zach would want us to do.”
Every parent of a teen fears their child becoming another Zach Didier. But what can a parent do when the spreading tentacles of the problem outpaces all solutions. Isonitazene, 20 time more powerful than fentanyl is starting to spread into our communities.
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Social media is gaining more and more control over our teens. In trying to protect them, we must teach them to protect themselves, we must be on the lookout for erratic behavior or sudden depression. What was normal yesterday can change overnight.
A single pill may be the only warning sign a parent gets. Zach, by his mother’s report, was a happy teen, but for so many others who are not happy, social media is a trap that can lead to desperate outcomes.
Yes, we need more of the opioid antidote Narcan and the teams in the field to administer it, but we also need a completely revamped and expanded mental health care infrastructure.
We need physicians more involved, need to start teaching them about pain beginning in medical school and how to manage it without opioids, prescriptions that can lead to desperate illicit pill purchases.
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Mostly we need to fully open the lines of communication with our teens before it’s too late.
When it comes to the drug cartels, they clearly don’t value human life, but more to the point are trying to make a profit, and using whatever substance they have on hand to create a “high” and bring the customers who survive back for more.
The Fox News Investigative Unit’s Jeremy Copas contributed to this report.
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