In the past month, at least seven teenagers in Los Angeles have overdosed on pills possibly laced with fentanyl, including a 15-year-old girl who died on the high school campusthe authorities said.
The latest overdose happened Saturday, and Los Angeles police were investigating whether the pills were connected to the fatal overdose of Melanie Ramos on Sept. 13 in a restroom at Bernstein High School in Hollywood.
Police last week arrested two boys, ages 15 and 16, in connection with her death and other drug sales in the area. The younger boy was detained on suspicion of manslaughter, the police said.
The suspects knew each other and both attend Apex Academy, an independent charter school that shares a campus with Bernstein, authorities said.
Drugs were sold on campus and in a nearby park, Moore said.
Still, the teenagers were “just pawns used by adults and drug-trafficking organizations,” and authorities were trying to find the supplier, Los Angeles Police Chief Michelle Moore told the city’s Police Commission on Tuesday.
Ramos’ family reported her missing after she failed to return home from school.
She and a classmate bought a pill containing fentanyl from another youth, believing it to be the prescription pain reliever Percocet, then took the drug on campus and passed out, Moore said.
The school was open for soccer and volleyball games that night, officials said.
At about 8 p.m., a classmate of Ramos woke up to find her friend unresponsive, went out into the schoolyard and was confronted by her own stepfather, who was looking for her, the chief said.
Ramos was pronounced dead at the scene by the fire department.
Earlier in the day, paramedics responded to separate calls for possible overdoses of two teenagers in the Lexington Park area, less than half a mile (0.8 kilometers) from Bernstein High School and a cluster of other schools. It is believed that the teenagers were in school.
In addition to Ramos and her friend, Moore said five other overdose victims have been found in the past month, but all survived.
One of them, a 15-year-old student who attends one of three schools located on the Bernstein campus, was found unconscious by his mother Saturday in a Hollywood home and was taken to a hospital, police told The Los Angeles Times.
The student reportedly took a quarter of a pill he believed to be Percocet. Police were investigating whether it contained fentanyl.
Law enforcement officials across the country have been warning for months about the dangers of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is 80 to 100 times stronger than morphine. It is often mixed into illegal pills that look like prescription painkillers or other drugs.
Moore called the drug “the number one threat to the country” and said Los Angeles police and drug enforcement teams had seized “tens of thousands of pills and pounds and pounds of fentanyl.”
“The seizures are ongoing, frequent and persistent, and the ready supply of this leads to overdoses and deaths,” he said.