By Emily Rosenberg
By Adam Harrison
As the opioid epidemic worsens across the state, the Health Center is hoping to raise awareness on how to reduce overdose risk through workshops.
This past Wednesday, the Health Center hosted an event, “Fentanyl Facts,” explaining the dangers of fentanyl to students. Assistant Special Agent in Charge Noah Herzon from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) attended to teach students about fentanyl, the rising rates of overdoses, and the growing number of counterfeit pills.
He expressed how saturated the illegal drug market is with fentanyl, and said that if Woodstock happened today, most people would die. The amount of fentanyl needed to be a fatal dose is two milligrams, “One pill can kill,” Herzon said.
Additionally, on Oct. 18, the Health Center will be presenting students with an opportunity to learn about Naloxone, more commonly known as Narcan, and how to use it properly.
They will also be supplying those students in attendance with free Narcan.
Pamela Lehmberg, coordinator of the Office of Wellness Education, said drug abuse has been worsening and drug-related deaths have been rising in the country and this is why the Health Center found it important to run these workshops.
According to Information released from the Department of Public Health (DPH), Massachusetts opioid related overdose deaths have risen 2.5% in 2022. This is approximately 2,357 overdoses in 2022.
“Fentanyl was present at a rate of 93% of fatal opioid overdoses in 2022 where a toxicology report was available,” the DPH also stated.
Describing what was taught at the Fentanyl Facts event, Lehmberg said pills laced with fentanyl look exactly like pills that are available at a pharmacy, and it’s impossible to tell the difference.
She added, “They have these pills out on the street that look just like Adderall, or just like Xanax, or just like Oxycontin, but they have fentanyl.”
The amount of fentanyl in circulation is ever-increasing, and the situation is getting worse. “The DEA is seeing fentanyl in all the pills. Seven out of ten of the pills they’re seizing have fatal amounts of fentanyl in them,” she said.
Narcan is a nasal spray that is used to “reverse the effects from an overdose of fentanyl or any opioid,” she said. This is accomplished by binding to opioid receptors and blocking the effect of the opioid, and provides an opportunity to receive medical attention for the individual.
Narcan is now available over the counter at local drug stores such as CVS and Walgreens.
Lehmberg said while she is unsure if there is a specific, increasing need for this information to be available at Framingham State, she would prefer it be available to students for preventative purposes.
Teaching students to be more aware of the situation will prevent any unnecessary overdoses, she said. Students who are able to use Narcan properly could potentially save a life in many circumstances, not just on campus. “This is a skill they can learn that they could use at any point … as citizens of the world,” she said.
She said providing this resource is taking a harm-reduction approach. “No drug use is safe drug use,” she said, but a harm-reduction approach constitutes “meeting a student where they’re at.”
Lehmberg said a harm-reduction approach is about having a conversation about what they’re using, why they’re using, and how they’re using.
“What are their feelings about how they're using it? Is there any motivation or willingness to change that use or decrease or to stop maybe, and then it's providing them the information so that they can be the healthiest - safest they can be,” she added.
She said this also helps to reduce the stigma of using these necessary resources in case that they are needed, adding that there is research that no one is going to start using opioids because Narcan has been made available to them.
The S.E.A.L.S. peer health educators also play a role in promoting harm- reduction resources by hosting tables in the McCarthy Center Lobby, running an Instagram site, and participating in workshops such as “Fentanyl Facts.”
One of the peer health educators, junior Avry Guilbert, said that it’s important to be open about the harms drugs can cause on a college campus because not many people are willing to talk about it, especially if approached as “You need to change your entire lifestyle.”
Guilbert added that having student leaders involved in the conversation is critical because “people are more open to talking to students just because students have similar experiences. We are close in age.”
She added students are more likely to begin the conversation with their peers about harm-reduction strategies than to a supervisor who could “get them in trouble.
“I wouldn't really want to talk about certain things, too.”
Angela Mentor-Vilgrain, a senior peer health educator, said promoting harm-reduction resources is important on a college campus because it “keeps our community safe.”
She added students have useful information and resources that can be used within not only the college campus, but also beyond that so safety is extended.
Benjamin LaRose, a senior, said that drug awareness education is important to have on campus, and thinks that “before people decide what they should put in their bodies, they should know what it is.”
Casidy Charlton, a freshman, believes drug use on college campuses is a problem, and students need to become more aware and “to know the effects of drugs” before they take them.”
Lehmberg said students who are concerned about their drug use or are seeking help can make an appointment with the Health and Wellness Center and from there, they may be referred to the Counseling Center or to an outside addiction treatment service provider. She said there is also an alcohol and cannabis harm-reduction workshop available at the health center every two weeks.
She also referred students to a Massachusetts Substance Use Helpline as well as a National Helpline run by Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services (SAMSHA) where people can find “confidential free help” and find services near them.
SAMSHA Helpline 1-880-662-HELP
Massachusetts Substance Use Helpline 800-327-5050