Leaders of the Los Angeles Unified School District recently made the decision to stock approximately 1,400 elementary, middle and high schools with the opioid overdose antidote Naloxone (also known by the brand name Narcan). This extraordinary step was taken after nine accidental fentanyl overdoses among their students, including a fatal overdose in a 15-year old girl, in the early weeks of the new academic year.
As an ER doctor, I am accustomed to using Narcan on a regular basis to reverse overdoses from various opioids, including heroin and prescription narcotics like Vicodin and OxyContin. Unfortunately, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the opioid epidemic was also surging. The year 2021 saw an estimated 81,502 opioid-related overdose deaths in the United States – an all-time high.
Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, is a commonly used pain medication. Because of the recent adolescent overdoses in my hometown of Los Angeles, fentanyl also has become a household name. And unfortunately that has led to more than few misconceptions and myths about this drug.