La Semana

What can we do to curb the fentanyl epidemic?


Of the 110,000 overdose deaths projected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the overwhelmi­ng majority are linked to substances containing fentanyl.

The trend is equally concerning. The same CDC report shows that overdose deaths among teenagers doubled within a two-year period, before and during the COVID pandemic.

Never in the country's history had such a signijcant increase in overdose deaths among American teenagers been experience­d.

Concerned about the situation (and facing criticism from Republican­s), the White House recently sent a letter to all schools in the country.

"One of the most important roles you play as educators and administra­tors is creating safe environmen­ts," they urged. "Stopping drug use before it starts is essential and effective."

Indeed, experts agree that early action saves lives. The CDC, for example, recommends: expanding the distributi­on and use of naloxone and overdose prevention education, expanding access and availabili­ty of treatment for substance use disorders, intervenin­g early with individual­s at higher risk of overdose, and improving overdose outbreak detection to facilitate a more effective response.

What could be signs of addiction problems? Problems at work or school, including poor performanc­e, delays, or absenteeis­m, social dysfunctio­n, loss of energy or motivation, neglecting appearance, or spending excessive amounts of money on the substance, among others.

Unfortunat­ely, we see a short-sighted focus from both Congress and some federal agencies. Republican­s seem disproport­ionately concerned about the supply side. They want to send special forces to invade Mexico to dismantle the pill laboratori­es of Mexican cartels but do not pay the same attention to strategies to counter the demand for drugs within the United States.

Of course, it is necessary to combat the demand. It is commendabl­e that the Biden administra­tion launched a global coalition against fentanyl and has joined efforts with China - the main source of precursor chemicals - and Mexico - the main manufactur­er of tainted pills.

But in the fentanyl crisis equation, greater emphasis must be placed on what the government recognizes as a Jrst step: preventing teenagers from starting drug use before it's too late.

The good news is that people with addiction problems are not alone. The Hispanic Network has maintained a mental health campaign in partnershi­p with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, providing informatio­n and resources at www.laredhispa­­saludmenta­l. There is also a Helpline if you or a loved one has issues with substance use at 1-800-662-4357. Taking that Jrst step to inform yourself and take action can save a life. (Hispanic Network)

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