Before the overdose, Griffin Hoffmann was a sophomore, about to lead his Portland, Ore., high school’s tennis team. Sienna Vaughn was a junior in Plano, Texas, who participated in Girl Scouts and cheerleading. Laird Ramirez was 17 years old living near Charlotte and competing on his high school’s wrestling team. He was rarely seen without his skateboard.
The teens thought they were taking prescription pills for pain and relaxation, drugs like Valium or Percocet, that they bought from friends or from social media. But the pills they took were counterfeits – they hadn’t come from a pharmacy and it turned out they contained fentanyl, a potent, often deadly, synthetic opioid. Just 2 milligrams can kill you.
Griffin, Sienna and Laird’s deaths are part of a grim crisis happening all across the country. Their stories, taken from local news reports, are among the dozens NPR reviewed, and they illustrate a new challenge for schools this fall.
“[Fentanyl’s] infiltration into schools is certainly something that cannot be ignored,” says Alberto Carvalho, the superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District. LAUSD is one of the largest districts to stock naloxone, a medicine that reverses opioid overdoses, throughout…