We are not okay: Antioch lives lost to deadly substance

Fentanyl, one of the deadliest substances in the world, is claiming Antioch resident’s lives.
We are not okay: Antioch lives lost to deadly substance

Lake County reports to have experienced 483 total overdoses since 2020, 30 of which were located in Antioch. In 2022, one was an Antioch Community High School alumnus. Regrettably, his fate has since been shared by three other teenagers from Antioch. 

In 2023, tragedy struck again as two students from ACHS lost their lives to drug overdoses. Math teacher Emily Parris was deeply affected by these losses and observed a significant impact within her classroom following the deaths. 

“Last year was rough, I lost two students. I was very close to one of them, a former student I had the year previously and then one who was in my class,” Parris said. “I think about them every day, it’s hard not to think about their experiences and it’s hard to see their friends struggle.”

To combat this issue, we need to start from the source. The Lake County Coroner’s Office report of 2022 shows 131 overdose deaths; opioids caused 105, and 95 of those were due to lethal amounts of fentanyl. Fentanyl is a potent synthetic opioid drug approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use as a pain relief or anesthetic. It is approximately 100 times more potent than morphine and 50 times more potent than heroin as an analgesic. Ingesting an uncontrolled illegal amount of fentanyl just as small as a grain of sugar, almost always unknowingly, can kill someone. As fentanyl can be produced in small pills or in a chalk-like substance, it can be easily transported by drug dealers. A large quantity is being smuggled across the southern border and peddled to major cities, where it is being added to opioids because it is a “cheap” filler. 

“They’re now finding nearly every sample that’s submitted to the lab is at some level of fentanyl contamination,” Antioch Police Chief Geoff Guttschow said.

The presence of laced marijuana can often be detected by its odor, which may carry strong hints of gas, paint, or nail polish. To verify whether marijuana is contaminated with fentanyl, the safest method entails dissolving a small piece of water and employing a fentanyl test strip for analysis.

“Sergeant Purcell had a case that shows that dope isn’t just dope,” Antioch Police Deputy Chief Norman Johnson said. “Not just you, but people in general think ‘Well, I’m just buying some dope from my local dealers. It’s a dime bag. It’s just cannabis.’ Well, it’s not just cannabis…we have actual proof where these cases were that cannabis…came back with sizable amounts of fentanyl, not just trace not just crushed damnation.” 

The APD strongly encourages every citizen to carry NARCAN. By doing so, individuals can potentially save lives, whether it’s a friend, family member, or peer in need. While Narcan can offer a temporary remedy for fentanyl overdose or poisoning, it doesn’t address the underlying issue of addiction to fentanyl or prescription pills for individuals in need of a lasting solution. In many cases, Narcan doses are available free of charge through various drug organizations and the APD. 

“We’re giving [NARCAN] away along with training. To us, there’s really no reason that every person out there should not have it in their car or in their backpack,” Guttschow said.

On Feb. 25, 2023, ACHS held an opioid and drug awareness panel open for free admission and anyone to attend. Ten-plus organizations spoke on the topic to educate community members: Nicasa Behavioral Health Services, Lake County Opioid Initiative, Live4Lali, Mobile Crisis Teams, Metropolitan Enforcement Groups, Lake County Coroner’s Office, Lake County State’s attorney, Open Arms Mission, (NAMI) National Alliance Of Mental Illness and ARC–Antioch Recovery Club. All of the organizations spent hours helping worried parents and locals feel more confident in their ability to identify individuals struggling with substance usage and teaching about the effectiveness of the drug NARCAN, which is an inhalant capable of reversing the effects of overdose.

“Some young people spoke about their experiences, which is powerful,” Assistant Principal of Student Services Scott Leverentz said. “They did a really good job of coordinating a community function, and they got a really good response.” 

There are several resources available for students who are currently struggling with drug and opioid abuse. ACHS provides every student with counselors and trusted adults who are trained to address these issues with the student and get them the help they need. 

“We have social workers and counselors who deal with that on a more regular basis and provide support where we can at school,” ACHS Principal Michael Berrie said. “Being a school as big as we are, there are individuals who have problems and then working through those problems with outside agencies that we know of.”

The Village of Antioch has been hit hard by the effects of fentanyl. Even with heightened awareness and comprehension, teachers may still find it challenging to reach students in need. It’s increasingly crucial for students to prioritize the welfare of their peers. Just educating oneself and others on the topic could potentially save lives. You can find NARCAN at numerous locations, such as the police department, where they supply training on how to administer it. You can also obtain it for free at most pharmacies.  

If you or someone near you are experiencing symptoms of an overdose, call 911 immediately.

If you or a peer in need are battling suicidal thoughts or mental illness, text START to 741-741 to reach the Crisis Text Line.

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About the Contributor
Claire Policht, Editor-in-Chief

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