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Redwood Bark

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NarCAN Save Lives

In 2021, 57 percent of fatal overdoses in Marin were directly tied to fentanyl, according to Overdose (OD) Free Marin. In response to the ever-growing threat of fentanyl, activists and affected family members have formed coalitions to spread awareness and educate community members.  

“Song for Charlie” is a family-run charitable organization that raises awareness about fentanyl-laced pills. Ed and Mary Ternan began this foundation after tragically losing their 22-year-old son, Charlie Ternan, to a Percocet pill laced with fentanyl. 

In May 2020, Charlie Ternan returned to Santa Clara University after spending spring break at home in Pasadena, California. Ed Ternan recalls his son’s visit as “normal.” 

On a Thursday afternoon, hours before a job interview, Charlie Ternan experienced uncomfortable back pain due to his long drive back to Santa Clara. He had back surgery two years prior and was prescribed a painkiller: Percocet. Desperate to relieve his back pain, Charlie Ternan searched for dealers through common media platforms that would provide a Percocet pill. Ultimately, he acquired a pill from an online dealer, and between 3:15 p.m. and 5:00 p.m., Charlie Ternan consumed a fentanyl-laced Percocet pill that took his life within minutes. 

“This is not a party death. Charlie [Ternan] was not at a fraternity party. He was self-medicating, isolating himself from gaming, and trying to chill out with something familiar. He had enough confidence in what Percocet would do to him that he was confident taking it two hours before a job interview, and it killed him,” Ed Ternan said. 

The Ternan family’s story is one of thousands, describing individuals who lost loved ones due to unintentional overdoses. Ed and Mary Ternan are working to spread awareness throughout communities and to address the dangers of self-medicating and casual drug use in people ages 13 to 24.  The prefrontal cortex is not fully developed until the mid 20s, causing decision making to be obscured, making it essential to educate people ages 13 to 24. 

Like the Ternan family, many other activists have worked to bring awareness to the lack of education and resources throughout communities surrounding drug abuse. 

A box of life-saving Narcan spray is used to help prevent fatal overdoses.

The Marin County Youth Commission (MCYC) is a youth leadership institute that acts as a political voice for young people hoping to get extensive education on different subjects in our community. Jessica Mendieta, a junior at Novato High School, is the chair of the Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drugs Prevention (ATOD) subcommittee in the MCYC.

 Mendieta works in cohesion with OD Free Marin. OD Free Marin is a foundation specializing in overdoses and naloxone nasal spray (Narcan), the antidote to opioid OD. They work to enlighten the Marin community about the fentanyl epidemic and temporary solutions, such as Narcan. 

“The goal of our subcommittee is to get Narcan into the hands of teens. The main thing we can do to prevent overdoses is to give people the tools and education they need to make safe decisions [surrounding drugs],” Mendieta said. 

On May 22, 2023, Chloe Flynn, a student activist and member of the ATOD, presented with Mendieta to Branson High School about overdose precautions and instructions on administering Narcan. The presenters taught the students how to avoid, recognize and address an overdose. After the presentation, free Narcan and other valuable tools were distributed to the Branson students. 

Accessible to students, Narcan is in a bright yellow box in the Wellness Center.

Narcan has become increasingly accessible after the FDA approved it to be sold over the counter in March of 2023. However, due to this accessibility and high demand, Narcan prices have skyrocketed. Mendieta and Flynn explain that despite the price increase, all Marin schools have Narcan on their campuses – it is now the role of students to be aware of where it is and how to use it. 

 “We want to see public schools taking the initiative and following schools like San Domenico and Branson in having student Narcan training. [These trainings make] Narcan accessible to students to take with them, not just for administrators to use,” Flynn said. 

Although Narcan saves lives, it is still just a temporary solution. The Tobacco Use Prevention Education (TUPE) program leader, Jonathan Hirsh, explains how he does not believe Narcan fully addresses the problem. 

“Narcan is an important bandaid; [however], it is going to do nothing to get to the root of the [fentanyl] problem,” Hirsh said. 

Hirsh stresses the importance of knowledge about how powerful fentanyl is. Specifically fentanyl’s minimal therapeutic index and the small gap between the amount it takes to get someone high versus an overdose. 

Lacing drugs with fentanyl makes them cheaper and far more lethal. Fentanyl is incredibly potent. A tiny amount of powder can have unprecedented effects.

“Unless you got the pill directly from the pharmacy, you don’t know what it is. You don’t know that it’s Oxycodone. You don’t know that it’s a Vicodine. You don’t know that it’s an Ativan, Xanax, or whatever else someone tells you it is,” Hirsh said. 

Teens must be knowledgeable about fentanyl and OD reversing drugs, such as Narcan. Providing students with additional resources, such as Narcan, can help them navigate the ongoing fentanyl crisis.

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About the Contributors
Charlotte Lacy
Charlotte Lacy, News Editor
Charlotte Lacy is a junior at Redwood High School and is a news editor for the Bark. In her free time, she enjoys playing soccer, running track, and playing with her dogs. 
Tessa Marshall
Tessa Marshall, Reporter
Tessa Marshall is a sophomore at Redwood High School and is a reporter for the Advanced Journalism and Media program . She enjoys playing soccer and hanging out with her friends.