RIVERHEAD, NY (PIX11) — Three times in the last 10 days, students have had to be revived from apparent overdoses, all at the same high school in eastern Long Island.
The situation comes amid reports of a 30% rise in fatal overdoses on Long Island since the pandemic began. The high school overdoses ended up not being fatal, but drug treatment experts, school administrators, parents, and police are all warning about the possibility that if the trend continues, it could have devastating consequences.
All of the recent overdoses happened at Riverhead High School. The first of them occurred on Feb. 4. A student had to be revived using Narcan, according to police. The student reported having used a vape pen.
Then, less than a week later, on Feb.10, another student passed out at the school. The school nurse once again used Narcan. The student later reported not using any substances.
On Monday of this week, a student reported difficulty breathing, and was rushed to the hospital. The student said they’d eaten a chocolate bar made with THC, the chemical that provokes the psychological effects of marijuana.
In all three cases, the students were transported to nearby Peconic Bay Medical Center, where they were treated, and ultimately released.
Dr. Jeffrey Reynolds is the CEO of Families and Children’s Association, a Long Island-based program that works with thousands of families on substance misuse issues. He said that he warns everyone he counsels about a serious danger.
“Assume that fentanyl is in everything, because it probably is,” he said.
That, combined with young people experiencing greater stress and anxiety because of the pandemic and its effects over the past two years, as well as them no longer being able to have anti-drug abuse education because of pandemic restraints, makes for “a perfect storm,” said Reynolds.
He encourages families to use this string of emergencies as an opportunity to talk about drug misuse, and to ask important questions of their kids.
“‘Hey, do you know anyone in your school who may be struggling?’ ‘Hey, do you know anyone who knows these kids?’ ‘Have you thought about it yourself?’ and that kind of thing,” he said are the types of questions that parents can ask.
“‘How are you feeling, yourself?’ Basic questions like that,” Reynolds said could be helpful to ask now.
“This is a great springboard for parents to have that conversation,” he added, “particularly if you’re not sure how to bring it up.”
The school also sent out a letter to families, encouraging them to talk about the dangers of substance misuse.