Drug Safety Information Matters For Piedmont Students, Too


Photo by Ryan Stokes

A school Narcan kit

Ryan Stokes, Staff Writer

A toddler is hospitalized in San Francisco after falling unconscious. A teen at Acalanes High School is given emergency naloxone to stop a presumed overdose. A homeless man goes unconscious on the streets of Oakland with no one to help. Last month, in Piedmont, a student was hospitalized after taking psilocybin (magic mushrooms). In each case, the victim was unaware that trace amounts of fentanyl had entered their system. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), fentanyl is 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine. Originally used as a strong painkiller, fentanyl is now used to illicitly cut drugs, making them more potent and more dangerous, while lowering the cost of production for the drug dealer. However, mistakes can be fatal, as the 2 milligram lethal dose of fentanyl can fit on the tip of a pencil.

“You can’t see it and it’s powerful. Just a little bit will knock you down and even kill you,” said Piedmont Police Department (PPD) Officer Hugo Diaz. 

The PPD started receiving boxes of Narcan, a medication that contains the overdose reversing drug naloxone, right before the pandemic started, a duty originally reserved for the paramedics. However, with the rapid increase in deaths related to fentanyl overdoses, medical professionals have been on high alert.

“I’ve been carrying Narcan for years,” school nurse Carol Menz said. “I firmly believe that every household with a middle or high schooler should have naloxone in the house.”

Menz said she has been holding ongoing Narcan training programs for staff members and has distributed personal emergency response kits to classrooms around the district. She said she believes that this information is valuable for students as well.

“Students need to recognize and understand an emergency situation. Rapid treatment is really important, as hypoxia happens quickly, and brain damage and death can set in when the brain isn’t getting enough oxygen for a short period of time.” she said.

Diaz also said calling for help is essential in the case of a potential overdose.

“If your friend needs help, get them some help,” Diaz said.

California Health and Safety Code 11376.5 provides limited protection from arrest and persecution relating to drug violations for those calling to help in emergency overdose situations. 

“Don’t feel like avoiding an investigation is worth not saving your friend’s life,” Diaz said.

After a classmate was hospitalized last month and found to have accidentally ingested fentanyl, senior Charlie White said it was a large wake up call for Piedmont as a whole. 

 “Some people act like we’re in a bubble, but this shows that isn’t the case,” said White.