Officials from the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration and U.S. attorney’s office met with administrators, teachers and law enforcement in Aurora, Ohio, for a panel discussion on opioid abuse earlier this month.
Federal officials at the meeting said educators are pivotal in providing students with the proper knowledge to prevent prescription opioid abuse.
Timothy Plancon, special agent in charge of the DEA’s Detroit office, said drug abuse education should start early and remain a priority the entire school year.
“I think it’s really important for educators to start from day one and include it throughout the curriculum,” Plancon said at the meeting.
Panel attendees watched “Chasing the Dragon: The Life of an Opiate Addict,” at the meeting as well.
The documentary, produced by the DEA and FBI, is one of the bureau’s newest drug abuse prevention tools. It aims to provide unfiltered and graphic insight into the negative effects of opioid addiction.
Aurora law director Dean DiPiero, an attendee of the meeting, said the video can be an effective drug-use deterrent for students.
“I would encourage our school district and others to use it in the appropriate way; it is a little raw,” DiPiero said at the meeting.
Aurora City School District superintendent Pat Ciccantelli organized the meeting as a proactive step toward combating substance abuse in the community. He was joined by dozens of superintendents across northeast Ohio.
Ciccantelli says that while the opioid and heroin epidemic is not a problem in his school district, now is the time to address prevention efforts before there is an issue.
“This is an issue that affects everybody,” said Ciccantelli. “I think it’s important for us to have a dialogue that includes school leaders across northeast Ohio.”
Northeast Ohio has seen a severe increase in opioid-related overdoses in the past year.
In Cuyahoga County, nearly 300 people have already died of heroin or fentanyl overdoses this year. August was the deadliest overdose month in Cuyahoga County’s history with 52 opioid overdose deaths. There were a total of 228 overdoses in Cuyahoga County last year.
Many officials attribute the spike in overdoses to heroin laced with powerful synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl and carfentanil.
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid 100 times more powerful than morphine.
Carfentanil is the strongest commercially made opioid in the world and is regularly used to sedate elephants. Individuals must use extreme caution when handling carfentanil because an amount the size of a grain of salt can cause an overdose.
In August, authorities found drugs laced with carfentanil in Cuyahoga County. Thomas Gilson, Cuyahoga County medical examiner, said the presence of carfentanil in the community is alarming.
“The detection of carfentanil here is a very disturbing development in the ongoing illegal opioid crisis,” Gilson said. “The drug is intended for use as an anesthetic in large animals, and veterinarians take special precautions just handling it. Small amounts are rapidly fatal.”
Ohio has been one of the hardest hit states by the nation’s opioid crisis. Last year 3,050 people in Ohio died of a drug overdose, the most in the state’s history.
Stephen Anthony, special agent in charge of the Cleveland FBI office and a panelist at the Aurora High School meeting, said the opioid crisis is only “in its infancy.”
“With this more than any of the other drug problems we’ve seen as a country, the education side needs to have more of a prominent role than before,” Anthony said at the meeting.