SEATTLE — As families return to school after a long Summer break, there is growing anxiety about the dangers of the synthetic opioid fentanyl, and the way it's causing overdose deaths at an alarming rate.
The Washington Office of Public Instruction points to a new survey, which suggests the overdose-reversing drug Narcan has been used in schools statewide, 42 times in the 2022-2023 school year. The survey is optional among school districts.
It paints a disturbing picture of the kind of challenge schools are up against, now that the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has discovered that 6 in 10 pills out on the streets are counterfeit and include a fatal amount of fentanyl.
The state of Washington now requires school districts with 2,000 students or more, to have Narcan available to staff and students.
But there is still nothing to require fentanyl education in Washington schools.
"It makes no sense. We need to start with education in the schools," said Gen Pehlivanian. Her son Trygve, 20, died in 2019 of an accidental overdose of fentanyl.
Pehlivanian says her son was dealing with a nagging sore throat just before Christmas, and decided to seek out Percocet from someone to help ease the pain. What he didn't realize, was that the pill was fake, and in fact, loaded with a lethal dose of fentanyl.
"His last Google search was 'Is it safe to take Percocet,'" said Pehlivanian. "So he would never purposely take fentanyl. If it can happen to him, it can happen to anyone."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said fentanyl was involved in the majority of all teen overdose deaths in 2021. And deaths have nearly tripled since then. And nearly a quarter of those deaths involved fake pills that were bought on the street.
Pehlivanian hopes her message will not fall on deaf ears.
"I don't want people to think that Trygve died because he was doing drugs," she said. "It was one pill, it can happen to anybody."