Opioid Awareness

Information about opioid prevention and misuse including but not limited to: fentanyl, vicodin, oxycodone, oxymorphone, codeine, and other prescription pain medications.

Video - Parents Speak About Losing Son

In the video below, Superintendent Dr. Michelle Reid interviews the Fosters, a family who tragically lost their son Cayden to a half pill of fentanyl mistaken for Percocet. This heart-wrenching yet essential discussion aims to save lives by raising awareness among students about the dangers of fake painkillers.

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:

  1. Cannabis, nicotine, and alcohol are the top 3 most widely used substances by youth in Fairfax County. 
  2. 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)
  3. 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.” 

Additional Resources

FCPS' Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drug Programs webpage 


Community Resources

FCPS Resources

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.   

View the April Opioid Townhall Presentation Slides

Talking with Youth about Substance Use Prevention

This 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.