Increase in Fentanyl Overdoses Among Students Raises Safety Concerns


Graphic by Chloe Dastanlee

This past school year, an alarming increase in the number of fentanyl-related overdoses among students has been documented across Montgomery County.

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid-like drug similar to morphine that is typically used to treat patients in hospitals with severe pain after surgery. Depending on body size, tolerance, and past usage, even two milligrams of fentanyl can be lethal. In response to the immense increase in overdoses among students involving fentanyl, MCPS sent out an urgent message on Dec. 9, 2022 to inform the community about this epidemic.

“Synthetic opioids, specifically illegally made fentanyl, are increasingly responsible for overdoses and overdose deaths.” MCPS Medical Officer Patricia Kapunan said in her message to MCPS students and families.

In this message, Kapunan also explains how adolescents get access to fentanyl, what illicit fentanyl is, how parents can help prevent their kids from accessing illicit fentanyl, and what MCPS is doing in response to these overdoses.

“The Office of the School System Medical Officer is working closely with the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and other community partners within the Montgomery Goes Purple initiative to develop community-wide efforts in prevention, harm reduction, and treatment,” Kapunan said. “These efforts include initiatives that broadly address substance use and mental health, and also focus on the specific problems of illicit fentanyl. Our shared goal is to ensure school-based programs integrate with local and county-wide efforts, which reach all children and families in our community.” 

As a result of the increase in fentanyl-related overdoses among students, MCPS made the decision to begin training school nurses and teachers on how to administer “life-saving” opioid treatment, specifically using Narcan. 

However, some students feel that MCPS’s role in combating fentanyl overdoses by training school staff is insignificant and that staff should be taking more action into helping prevent these overdoses than they are. 

“It won’t prevent overdoses because there aren’t any strict implications against opioid usage so overdoses will continue,” sophomore Axl Salinas said. 

The purpose of the training is to give school nurses and staff the proper supplies and skills to save a student’s life if an overdose were to occur within a school. MCPS continues to work with families and staff to further prevent tragic overdoses.