Information about opioid prevention and misuse including but not limited to: fentanyl, vicodin, oxycodone, oxymorphone, codeine, and other prescription pain medications.
What Are Opioids?
Opioids are a class of drugs used to treat pain, and can include both prescription medications as well as illegal drugs. Tragically, their misuse can lead to devastating outcomes. Opioids - such as fentanyl, heroin, hydrocodone, methadone, morphine, oxycodone and tramadol - act on the brain, producing a euphoric effect. Although substance use has declined among Fairfax County youth over the past several years, fatal opioid overdoses continue to rise.
Fentanyl is an especially powerful opioid that is extremely lethal, even in small doses. Most fatal overdoses in Fairfax County in recent years have involved illicit fentanyl, which is a common substitute or cutting agent in narcotics such as cocaine, heroin, MDMA (also known as ecstasy or molly), as well as counterfeit pills. Nationally, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) reports a dramatic rise in the number of counterfeit pills containing at least two milligrams of fentanyl, which is considered a deadly dose. Counterfeit pills laced with fentanyl can look the same as authentic pills, making it almost impossible to know whether a pill has a deadly dose of fentanyl or not.
Opioids in Fairfax County
FCPS is committed to raising awareness about the opioid epidemic with our educators, parents, and students. Together, we can help protect the lives of county residents, especially our students.
In Fairfax County, there were four fatal overdoses within the 0-17 year old age group in 2022.
It is important to be mindful of the language used when talking about drug use. When adults generalize and make exaggerated statements, youth are likely to do the same as well. Perpetuating false social norms can create hysteria and anxiety, the antidote would be telling the truth about what’s happening in our communities. “When non-users learn they are part of the majority and not alone in their opposition to use, they can be more confident in speaking out against use and in acting as active bystanders to discourage the use of others” (High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) Program).
When people think substance use is the norm, they are more likely to make choices that align with that misperception (i.e. acceptance/promotion of drug use). However, when youth are exposed to messages that explain positive, true norms that most youth make healthy choices and engage in prosocial activities, they are more likely to take part in those positive behaviors.
A few true norms to consider:
- Cannabis, nicotine, and alcohol are the top 3 most widely used substances by youth in Fairfax County.
- 83% of Fairfax County youth reported no substance use in the past month. The percentage of students reporting the use of substances have generally declined over the past ten years. (2022 Fairfax County Youth Survey)
- 99% of youth do not use prescription painkillers for non-medical reasons.
What can Families do?
- Show you disapprove of underage drinking and other drug misuse. Young people listen to the adults in their lives. More than 80% of young people ages 10-18 say their parents are the leading influence on their decision whether to drink.
- Show you care about your child’s health, wellness, and success. Young people are more likely to listen when they know you are on their side. Make sure they know that you are talking to them about substance misuse because you care about their safety and well-being.
- Show you are a good source of information about alcohol and other drugs. You want your child to make informed decisions about alcohol and other drugs with reliable information about their dangers. Establish yourself as a trustworthy source of information. Helpful resources are linked below.
- Pay attention to your child and discourage risky behaviors. Show you are aware of what your child is up to, as young people are more likely to drink or use other drugs if they think no one will notice. Discourage unhealthy risky behaviors like substance use, while encouraging healthy activities.
- Build your child’s skills and strategies for avoiding drinking and drug use. Even if you don’t think your child wants to drink or try other drugs, peer pressure is powerful. Children will make better choices when they have a clear plan to avoid alcohol and drug use. Talk with your child about what they would do if faced with a decision about alcohol and drugs, such as texting a code word to a family member or practicing how they will say “no thanks.”
Talking with Youth about Substance Use PreventionThis document, from the HIDTA program, shares usable strategies for how to have these conversations, including raising the topic, what to talk about, and timing the conversation.
- High-Risk Substance Use from the Centers for Drug Control and Prevention (CDC)
- Tips on Starting Conversations as Parents from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
- Health Behavioral Development from CDC
- Al-anon: Help and hope for families affected by someone else’s alcohol/drug misuse
- Alateen: Help and hope for teens affected by someone else’s alcohol/drug misuse
- Fairfax County Juvenile & Domestic Relations Court Free Parent Support Group in English & Spanish
- Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board for mental health/substance abuse
- Chris Atwood Foundation
- Mental Health Resources from Fairfax County Government
- This Is Quitting from Fairfax County Government
- INOVA Kellar Center Substance Related Disorders: Intensive Outpatient Program
- FCPS Substance Abuse Prevention Specialist (SAPS) Program Overview
- Sign up to receive your school's "New You Choose" newsletter for SAPS info.
- Follow @FCPSSAPS, the SAPS Program on Twitter, for quick info & tips
- Video: Fairfax County Youth Substance Use Trends
- Video: Everything You Need to Know About Opioids
- Video: Todo lo que necesita saber sobre los opioides
- Video: Prevention of Prescription Medication Misuse
Narcan Training & Materials
from Fairfax County Government
Previous Community Meetings on Opioids
At previous mid-March and late-April 2023 community meetings on opioid awareness, nearly 500 families, staff, and community members came together for a conversation on the dangers of fentanyl.
During these impactful events, audience members heard testimonials from individuals affected by the opioid epidemic and learned facts from medical experts and law enforcement representatives. Participants learned how, as a community, we can partner to reduce the impact of these harmful—and often deadly—drugs.
At the April meeting, attendees received free REVIVE! Narcan training during the event.