Fentanyl, this silent killer seems to be shrouded on each of our radars as it’s being laced in distributed adulterated pharmaceuticals. You don’t have to be an economist to know where there is supply, there is demand. Here in Southern California, it’s practically raining pills laced with fentanyl in denser communities. There is no shortage of availability, unfortunately. As a teen, it’s easy to get caught up in the “I’m invincible” mentality. Unfortunately, that’s not real. There is a disturbing habit we see as behavioral specialists of teens doing what they want, when they want. They have no caution, as they want to fit in or stand out and be just like everyone else, minus any genuine consideration of their own health or defining consequences. What teens don’t realize is, it’s better to be uncommon, opposed to matching the ordinary. Finding commonality and enjoying the company of friends is normal, but we must shine awareness on the reality that teens, especially in the South Bay, are getting their hands or taking substances... Unfortunately often right under our noses.
I write this to deliver the message prior to having to be a witness to the loss of a life, to having your teen see their friend not wake up from having a “fun night” with unsafe pills. Yes, this is a sensitive subject and the consequences are dismal and grave. This is intended to scare you and wake each and every one of us up to the reality of this issue. We have a tendency to think “No not me, wouldn’t happen to me” or “No, not my kid.” There are no words that can recapture the magnitude of the tragedy or even explain the hurt when you, your friend, or your kid, gets taken from this world. There is no reviving once Fentanyl gets into our systems.
The truths are what we run from and avoid. The challenging conversations and the difficult realities we face with ourselves and with our kids. We like to disguise issues in order to protect our egos. There is an embedded voice in our head that speaks up when we do something we know to be wrong. Even as a young adult. Whether that’s ditching class, plagiarizing, cheating on a test, ignoring health or responsibility, or taking a drug that’s handed to you at a party. Our brain sends a message of caution. There are things adolescents do to seek attention via negative behavior. Although, I have had a friend that was an all-around empathetic human, maintained straight A’s from junior high and throughout college, had true potential, someone that was there whenever you needed him, honest and humble; he messed around one night and got his hands on the wrong pills and the next day, poof (snap of the finger), gone. Taken away. There is no rhyme or reason to this. All it takes is one time. Unfortunately, some of us have learned the hard way.
With Covid being introduced back in late November of 2019 (but really causing havoc in March of 2020, especially in the United States and climbing drastically as we head towards the closure of 2020) it’s had a plethora of side effects affecting young adults. In some ways, more harsh than getting the virus itself. Not only removing them socially from on-campus schooling but also having to rely entirely on Zoom for their engagements and learning. A major shift from regularity in fundamental school operations. The expectation to remain home and indoors without socializing throughout the school day and otherwise after for the completion of homework and tutoring sessions, day in and day out. Due to the requirements to help decrease the spread of the virus, this has had teens stuck in the same room throughout the semester. Parents and adults; remember what it was like to get driven to school, have friends in classes to see during and after, sporting events, extracurricular clubs to attend, etc. All of that has been taken away. Of course, all of us adults have been affected as well, damaging marriages and adding frustration and irritability in the home, too. All of these factors have become crippling and are truly affecting teens. Mental health has plummeted and been severely deflated. The CDC released a study and stated, “Overall, 40.9% of respondents reported at least one adverse mental or behavioral health condition, including symptoms of anxiety disorder or depressive disorder.” There have also been surges of suicidal thoughts, which have given teens the urge to use substances.
Fentanyl goes hand and hand with Covid in the sense of wariness as it is being distributed and spread in our area. Pharmaceuticals are a high volume business and are easily manipulated, being laced, including deadly ingredients as they are being falsely replicated from Mexico and being imported illegally into the United States. Wilson Center (the nation’s key non-partisan policy forum for tackling global issues through independent research and open dialogue to inform actionable ideas for the policy community) informed the public of the following, “While seemingly dominated by two large criminal groups in Mexico, the fentanyl trade requires vast networks of smaller subcontractors who specialize in importing, producing, and transporting synthetic drugs. Both large and small organizations appear to be taking advantage of the surge in popularity of the drug, which is increasingly laced into other substances such as cocaine, methamphetamine, and marijuana—very often without the end-user knowing it. To be sure, rising seizures of counterfeit oxycodone pills laced with fentanyl illustrate that the market is maturing in other ways as well.” This is a national security issue that has become the definition of out of control, as fentanyl's exposure is present in our very community.
In a time of crisis and unknowing, Higher Grounds is here, a helping hand, to do regular in-home drug testing and being a positive role model for your teen. It is our mission to help every teen who needs us, to guide him or her toward responsibility, sobriety, and to prepare them for adulthood. Please, be safe, be mindful, and most of all cherish the family you have as we enter the new year.
Written by Nicholas Salvemini, Higher Grounds Mentor