Fentanyl Awareness Event promotes new methods to student drug education
November 3, 2023
SOURCE: El Estoque
Fremont Union High Schools Foundation and Rotary Club of Cupertino partnered with Song for Charlie and other community members to host “Fentanyl Poisoning: Real Talk About Fake Pills” on Wednesday, Oct. 18 at Fremont High School in order to spread awareness about the growing issue of fentanyl poisoning. The event included presentations from Drug Educator Rhana Hashemi, Song for Charlie Founder Ed Ternan and MVHS alumnus Rob Walker, who lost their sons Charlie and Colin respectively to fentanyl poisoning, and Drug Educator Rhana Hashemi.
According to Ternan, Song for Charlie is a drug education platform that uses a new approach to educate children and students as well as advocate for more parent-child discussions about drugs. At the event, Ternan promoted a Song For Charlie resource called “The New Drug Talk,” which advises families about how to approach the subject of fentanyl with their children.
“Nine or 10 months ago, we were approached by the Department of Health Care Services and together we tried to think about what the state could do in partnership with Song for Charlie to continue to address the fentanyl crisis,” Ternan said. “We had already built some tools and messaging directly to kids and together we decided that we really needed to involve parents in the process of that conversation.”
At the event, Ternan, Hashemi and Walker went over aspects covered in “The New Drug Talk.” The resource includes information and videos split into three main sections: “What to know,” which covers what fentanyl is and how it is reaching people, “What to say,” which explains how to bring up the topic to children and “What to do,” which goes over actions that families can take to prevent fentanyl usage. “The New Drug Talk” uses a new approach to drug education, particularly through teaching harm reduction. Harm reduction not only discusses abstinence, which is completely refraining from drug use, but it also aims to be completely honest about the possible consequences of drug use to minimize harm
“[Talking about drug use] can be awkward and uncomfortable, but your kids are dying to have these conversations,” Hashemi said. “We went from just saying no to just saying nothing. We realize shaming and telling kids to just say no and abstaining wasn’t working. So we all just kind of put our heads in the sand [and said nothing]. And kids start to die. Your child will thank you for it. Even if they swerve in the moment and even if you swerve in the moment, they will look back and thank you.”
Rotary Club member Gary Latshaw attended the Fentanyl Awareness event because a close friend of his extended family died from a drug overdose, possibly caused by fentanyl. Latshaw states that integrating more drug education into school curriculums should be a higher priority.
“If you’re going to take an English class or composition and any one of the assignments should be about drug overuse, and certainly, it’s had a role in history, certainly in science,” Latshaw said. “If those different classes pick up on it, integrate it more than if you have just a single health class or something like that, since no one would make a full curriculum.”
Latshaw felt that the event did a great job breaking down the issue of fentanyl and introducing it to an audience who may have been unfamiliar with how fentanyl reaches and harms people, especially teenagers. He believes that the event was very well run and informative, and similar events would be beneficial for spreading awareness.
“I think this is part of a big problem where people don’t understand science,” Latshaw said. “It was very interesting to hear how these pills can look like a bonafide medication, but they could easily have fentanyl or maybe some other kind of drug that shouldn’t be consumed.”
According to a survey of 132 respondents, 59% of MVHS students believe that schools should spend more effort on drug education. Sophomore Vikram Aditya Srikanth is part of that group, stating that drug education in MVHS is insufficient with no classes incorporating it into its curriculum. He says that increased education is necessary to combat the use of drugs and its negative health effects.
“A lot of [students] that I talked to do not have a very good understanding of how drugs are so addictive and dangerous,” Srikanth said. “It would be beneficial, in Biology, for example, to have at least a small one-week unit, or integrate drugs and fentanyl [education] into the [class].”
Ternan also hopes that drug education can make it into the classroom. He hopes that through Song for Charlie, students and parents can gain an opportunity to directly learn a proper response to drugs such as fentanyl. Ternan says that Song for Charlie is the first comprehensive drug curriculum which specifically responds to the emergence of new drugs and synthetics.
“We hope to change the way we have the drug conversation in America,” Ternan said. “We think it’s really important. The solutions we had before just don’t apply, things are really that different. Our goal is to elevate the conversation and bring people together who are really interested in getting it right this time. The stakes are so high. We can’t afford to screw this up again.”