Spring break is a time for celebration and often partying – especially in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. In Wilton Manors, Florida, several students overdosed on cocaine that was laced with fentanyl.

An article from The New York Times released information stating all six men were hospitalized in Fort Lauderdale on Thursday, March 10. The tragedy occurred in an Airbnb vacation house.

Two students had gone into respiratory arrest while the other two tried to help by performing CPR before they too were exposed to the drug. Five of them were cadets at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

This incident resulted in great concern for others with speculation of a bad batch. Normally drugs are not solicited from one specific buyer. While it is now clear who sold the drugs, it is unclear where the fentanyl is coming from.

Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic painkiller used to treat severe pain and slows a person’s breathing and heart rate. It has quickly become a deadly threat and cause of the rising number of overdoses.

Fentanyl is known to be extremely potent, addictive and dangerous. Oftentimes, it is added to other drugs to make the drugs cheaper. Lately, it seems the more I scroll through social media, the more I see deaths related to drugs laced with fentanyl.

Fort Lauderdale is a popular scene for spring breakers – even more so for major partying associated with drugs and alcohol. But overdoses are certainly not limited to Florida and have affected college students all over the U.S., including in New Jersey.

As a college student at Montclair State, I can confidently say there have been outbreaks of overdoses close to home. According to Gov. Phil Murphy, a total of 3,081 New Jersey residents died from suspected overdoses in 2021.

The Montclair Local released an article amidst the COVID-19 pandemic on the Montclair community’s experience with 17 suspected overdoses in the first five months of 2020, four of which were fatal according to police.

Jon Rice, a former Montclair State University student who is now a state trooper in Hamilton, New Jersey, has witnessed the devastating effects of fentanyl-laced substances firsthand.

“The amount of heroin being distributed is at an all-time high as well as opioids that are laced with fentanyl,” Rice said. “Fentanyl is up to 50 times stronger than heroin, so you think about the amount of people dying from heroin that overdosed and then about the amount that’s been laced with fentanyl [that] makes it a much bigger problem”.

Fentanyl is one of the most common drugs involved in overdose deaths. The CDC released a tweet on March 22 expressing their concern and sharing useful information to prevent drug-related overdoses. Drugs containing any amount of fentanyl cannot be distinguished from the synthetic drugs themselves.

I find that overdoses don’t appear as often in the news as they are happening. You’d think the constant reminders from family members and friends expressing their losses via social media would have a bigger effect on young people who are suffering. Yet fentanyl overdoses continue to soar.

People close to me have experienced great tragedy due to fentanyl overdoses. Just last April, my friend’s ex-girlfriend lost her life after taking a Xanax that was laced with fentanyl. Only two weeks ago, his best friend’s brother also lost his life over spring break due to fentanyl-laced cocaine.

Whether it comes in the form of a pill or powder, fentanyl is not distinctive. Parents seem to be the most concerned with their children becoming too comfortable when it comes to any type of drug. Drugs that are supposed to be taken for anxiety and depression are taking lives.

We need to remind our friends and family of the potential risks at hand before they decide to partake in “party favors.” But on a larger scale, more drastic actions need to be taken as well.

Media campaigns preventing drug use don’t appear as often as as they should, nor are they as effective as they could be. Social media users, particularly content creators on TikTok, should bring awareness to the risks of recreational drugs.

Rather than glamorizing drugs and alcohol, a platform as big as TikTok should create a space for this kind of conversation. As a TikTok user myself, I am all eyes and ears when it comes to this app.

Interestingly enough, when you search “fentanyl” on TikTok there are no results found as the phrase may be associated with behavior or content against community guidelines. The idea of promoting a safe and positive experience on TikTok seems nearly impossible if we cannot bring awareness to the tragedies occurring all around us.

These are only some of the actions we must take to ensure college students stay away from potentially laced drugs. A temporary high will never compare to a lifetime of pain.

If you’re at a party looking to use drugs as a Band-Aid for your hurt, there’s always an alternative. Those who are struggling and need to seek help can contact Montclair State’s Counseling and Psychological Services.



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