Members of the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station Juvenile Intervention Team, or J-Team, shared Thursday some of the dangers of fentanyl, signs that someone may be using drugs and their efforts to combat emerging trends.
Fentanyl, initially developed for pain management treatment of cancer patients, is a synthetic opioid up to 100 times stronger than morphine and often is mixed with heroin to increase its potency, or disguised as highly potent heroin, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.
In April 2017, seven people showed up in the emergency room of Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital with overdoses of opiates, prompting an impromptu news conference at the hospital the next day. Since then, fentanyl has claimed more SCV victims, according to Cary Quashen, founder of Action Family Counseling on Soledad Canyon Road, who said in a previous interview that he’s dealt with more than a half-dozen addicts.
Opioids, such as heroin and oxycodone; stimulants like methamphetamine and cocaine; amphetamines such as Adderall; and depressants like Xanax are among the most common drugs seen in the SCV, according to Detective Nashla Barakat.
“But the biggest one right now that we’re seeing is fentanyl, and it’s being laced into other drugs, so what you might be thinking is that you’re taking oxycodone and what you’re actually taking is fentanyl,” she said.
Parents asked the J-Team, which works to break the cycle of drug abuse, Thursday via livestream how they can tell if their child is under the influence of a controlled substance.
Deputy Albert White said some of the effects for opiates include weight loss, slurred speech, diminished coordination or constricted pupils. For stimulants, users can experience rapid heartbeat, and “they’re very fidgety; they can’t stop moving.” Depressants can cause a slow reaction time and breathing, blackouts and unconsciousness.
Fentanyl has made its way into the SCV like any other illicit drug, according to Deputy John Leitelt, who added that “people have to order it to get it up here, or it’s been brought up here to be sold in other forms of drugs. If there is a market for it, then it will make its way up here.”
Whether it’s the families or the users, educating the community about the drugs, what to look out for and what resources are out there to help end addiction. are the priorities in helping combat the issue of substance abuse, according to Barakat.
The J-Team itself has a three-part approach, said Capt. Justin Diez: education, intervention and enforcement. Each has a “multifaceted approach, (which) involves working with the deputies at the station, community stakeholders and, of course, our Narcotics Bureau,” he said.
If a family member is concerned that a juvenile may be under the influence, White recommends they reach out to the J-Team to attain at-home testing kits. Because they are available on a first-come, first-served basis, he suggests contacting them via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Yolanda Calderon, with Drug Free Youth in Santa Clarita, said parents can join in on a discussion about drugs with law enforcement and medical experts in the upcoming virtual Parent Resource Symposium set for 6 p.m. on Sept. 23. Additional details are expected to be released on the station’s social media.