BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — A UCLA study found that the rate of overdoses among teenagers in the United States doubled in 2020 and rose even higher during the first half of 2021. The impact of this increase can be seen in Kern County, where just two weeks ago, a middle school student was arrested for having 150 fentanyl pills on campus.
Families are being hit hard by the opioid epidemic and especially the powerful opioid fentanyl. With not only a pill, but also a whiff or a touch, fentanyl can be deadly.
“It’s a horrible feeling,” said Marian Meighan, whose daughter struggled with addiction. “If you don’t hear from them you think they’re dead.”
Meighan says her daughter’s addiction issue started when she was a child.
“Well, we dealt with a 20 year addiction after that,” said Meighan. “Once you get on that road and the ball starts rolling, it’s just a life of despair.
Meighan isn’t the only parent dealing with this concern. Yassamein Campos says she fears it could happen to her son.
“It scares me to death,” said Campos. “It can be any one of our children, it really can. It can be their best friend, it can be any kid, and it scares the crap out of me.”
Campos added that school should be a safe place for children, but lately, it hasn’t felt that way to her.
“We have to trust that they’re safe at school while we’re working, and it doesn’t feel very safe nowadays while they’re at school,” said Campos.
Meighan and Campos both say that combatting the issue of fentanyl use by children starts with educating them at home with things like fact sheets like this one from the Drug Enforcement Agency’s website.
Law enforcement agrees. Lt. Ryan Kroeker of the Bakersfield Police says it’s important to know the kind of legal consequences someone could face, child or adult, for selling illegal opioids.
“We’re trying to take the educational component of trying to educate the community of how important it is to not possess it at all, because it’s so dangerous to come in contact with,” said Kroeker. “Also, there’s some criminal consequences as well if someone is found to be in possession of it.”
Lori Meza with the Kern County Sheriff’s Office says parents have to take an active approach in ensuring that kids are aware of this opioid.
“My advice to the parents is remember that you are your child’s biggest advocate,” said Meza. “Nobody cares about your child or loves your child the way that you do. We do go into the schools and we do presentations for parents on drug awareness, but truly the conversation should be happening at home as well.”
Kroeker says the issue of opioids and fentanyl use among young people is an issue that has to be tackled not only by law enforcement, but also the schools. Ultimately, it will take the support of the entire community to prevent future opioid deaths.
“Fentanyl is one of those things that is very disruptive, because we’ve seen the major impacts that it has on students’ lives and on people’s lives,” said Kroeker. “Not just young kids but adults as well.”
As for Meighan, she says her daughter has since recovered and hopes others can get the same help.
“We know that there’s hope and there’s help out there because my daughter’s received it,” said Meighan. “Unconventional method, but she’s received it after 20 years of just suffering with addiction.”