As drugs become more readily available and more powerful, a parent’s worst nightmare of getting a phone call about their teen overdosing has escalated. Protecting children from the devastating effects of illegal drug use and addiction is a top priority for Scarsdale parents and the community at large.
During a presentation at the Scarsdale Public Library hosted by Scarsdale Youth for Youth (SAY) on Wednesday, January 18, Rob Polyeno, a 25-year-old agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), discussed the current threat of drugs to children. We talked about what parents need to know about. Her teens in Scarsdale have long been educated in health classes and school assemblies on what to do if they’ve been exposed to dangerous substances, but if they’re unsure if they’ve been exposed , the risk is increasing.
According to the federal DEA, fentanyl is the most cheap, readily available, most potent and deadly synthetic opioid, camouflaged with Adderall, Oxytocin, Xanax, and even marijuana. “One tablet at a time can kill him,” he says Polieno. No counterfeit drugs have ever been found in pharmacies, but Polieno says this is not a problem because counterfeit drugs are still easy to come by thanks to his social media. “Anyone with a smartphone has access to fentanyl,” Polieno said.
The audience for his presentation in the library, made up of parents, school administrators and officials, raised many important questions in terms of protecting the youth of our community.
“How can I tell if a pill is legal?” was a common question parents asked.
Polieno presented a photo highlighting the difference between the counterfeit drug and the real drug. A key piece of advice from the DEA is to never take any medications other than those prescribed by your doctor, especially to the youth in your community to spread the word ‘one drug kills’. “Children who are dying are intolerant children who don’t know what they’re taking,” Polieno said. In response to concerns, he said the best way to protect children is to keep talking about these issues over and over again.
Parents were particularly intrigued by the pictogram drug codes Agent Pollyeno revealed. Dealers use emoji drug codes as a discreet method of online drug dealing to describe their products without compromising information.
A library-based program to train people on Narcan administration is being considered, according to SAY director and coordinator of the Jan. 18 event, Lisa Tommeny. Narcan’s effects wear off before fentanyl’s because fentanyl’s is more effective, said Polyeno. He said it makes an impact.
Scarsdale High School Vice Principal Chris Griffin said he will share a presentation with the SHS dean after the program to inform the school community.
Following Polyeno’s presentation, The Scarsdale Inquirer interviewed several students about their knowledge and reactions to the facts about fentanyl. When asked where they first learned of it and its effects, many students expressed similar experiences and feelings.
“You hear about it all the time, so I’ve known about it for a while. But I didn’t really know its effects or exactly what it does until I learned about health. [where] People might take it more seriously,” said Adriana Cha, a senior at Scarsdale High School.
“I’ve been talking about it with a few friends, even in health class last year, and I can’t say I’m educated about it. I think it would really help if we could, and it definitely should be talked about more,” said SHS Junior AJ Booth.
Other students shared similar experiences, saying that the sophomore health class was basically new to being educated about deadly synthetic opioids, and more education about it would definitely help. He said he would.
We also asked students to share their impressions of fentanyl.
“It’s scary. Sometimes you die without knowing the cause because there’s something mixed in. It definitely made me more conscious in general,” said Laura Ansel of SHS Jr.
High levels of student anxiety as a result of learning about opioid overdoses among teenagers in the region prompted more intensive education to be given to students on how to handle drugs safely and responsibly. This is another reason why we encourage high schools to give.
“I have a friend at school who is taking Adderall for attention deficit disorder, so it really makes me nervous. I definitely need to learn more about fentanyl, so people know they need to be careful.” I understand”