At just 14 years old, Alexander Neville died after taking what he believed to be an oxycodone pill purchased through social media. Unbeknownst to him, the pill contained a lethal dose of fentanyl.
“Alexander was a normal, average teenager with a loving and supportive family,” Alexander’s mom wrote on her nonprofit’s website.
Alexander’s death highlights a disturbing trend among middle and high schoolers. Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveal a staggering 109% increase in monthly overdose deaths among individuals aged 10 to 19 from 2019 to 2021. Approximately 90% of these deaths involved opioids, with 84% specifically linked to fentanyl. Counterfeit pills played a role in nearly 25% of these tragic cases.
Even with two-thirds of the victims surrounded by others at the time of the overdose, most bystanders failed to provide an overdose response, such as administering the life-saving opioid overdose reversal medication naloxone. Emily’s Hope previously reported this year that a naloxone product, Narcan, is now available over-the-counter.
In response to the rising number of youth deaths, experts are advocating for schools to stock naloxone. The White House, recognizing the urgency of the situation, has sent a letter to educators, strongly urging all schools to keep the overdose reversal drug readily available.
“As you have seen in your schools and communities, the rise of illicit fentanyl and its trafficking via social media is having a disproportionate impact on our children,” the letter reads.
Moreover, the American Medical Association, in collaboration with other organizations, issued a statement encouraging states to adopt policies that facilitate easy access to naloxone for school staff, teachers, and students. The organization emphasized the severity of the adolescent substance use crisis, calling it a “national crisis.”
Beyond naloxone, officials are advocating for schools to implement programs focusing on preventing drug use among adolescents and educating them about the dangers of fentanyl and substance use disorders.
Emily’s Hope is at the forefront, introducing a substance use prevention education curriculum tailored for K-12 students. This age-appropriate and evidence-based content aims to educate children about the hazards of substance use while empowering them to make healthy choices. The White House emphasizes the importance of schools taking these curricula seriously, recognizing that “our schools are on the frontlines of this epidemic, but our teachers and students can be equipped with tools to save lives.”
These programs aspire to prevent other parents from experiencing tragedies similar to Alexander’s. The family, expressing the need, states on its nonprofit website, “A second chance is something that all victims of similar tragedies deserve yet never received. Alexander could not be saved, but there are many more that can be.”