Feb. 3, 2024 – Melanie Ramos was only 15 years old when she died of a suspected overdose in a high school bathroom in Hollywood. Police reported that she and a friend had purchased pills they thought were prescription painkillers but which were likely fakes containing fentanyl, a potent opioid incorporated into counterfeit pills widely available in the illicit drug market.

Fentanyl has caused such overdoses to rise sharply despite declining drug use among young people. Recent data suggest it kills an average of 22 teens every week around the nation. Tragic stories like Melanie’s are playing out across the country — and at an unprecedented rate. In a new analysis in the New England Journal of Medicine, we found that fatal overdoses among U.S. teens aged 14-18 hit an all-time high in 202. … Emphasizing safety in drug use messaging to young people will encounter opposition from policymakers and others, as it means confronting the uncomfortable reality that some teens use drugs. However, research indicates that teaching safety does not cause teens to use more drugs. Drug-prevention programming can still tell teens they shouldn’t use substances while equipping them with the tools to protect themselves if they do. Teens need this knowledge before more young lives are tragically lost.