ROCKVILLE, Md. (DC News Now) — On Tuesday, leaders in Montgomery County came together to address an alarming trend of young people overdosing from illegal opioids. 

Montgomery County Police Chief Marcus Jones said a 15-year-old student died from a suspected overdose this past weekend, which is what prompted the meeting.

Elena Suarez joined officials to share her daughter, Collette’s, story.

Collette, a Winton Churchill High School graduate, was 19 years old when she died from an overdose in 2020.

“You cannot experiment because everything is laced with fentanyl today, and it will get you sooner or later,” said Suarez.

Statistics provided by the Montgomery County Department of Police show youth overdoses in the county increased by 78% from 2021 to 2022. Fatal overdoses went up 120%.

“I hear from our young people, you know, they want stamina, they want to prepare for tests,” said Montgomery County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Monifa McKnight. “They want to be able to stay awake and they want all of these things and unfortunately they’re believing that it’s, you know, a substance that’s going to help them do that.”

Jones said although children usually don’t know they are taking fentanyl, that’s not the case with the current trend.

“…Youth are intentionally buying and using street, fentanyl drugs,” said Jones.

Because people may be hesitant to get involved if they’re with someone who is in the middle of an overdose emergency, thinking that they, themselves, could get into trouble, State’s Attorney John McCarthy reminded parents to tell their children about Maryland’s Good Samaritan Law which protects people assisting in emergency overdose situations from arrest and prosecution.

“Make the call. Save your friend,” said McCarthy. “There will be no criminal prosecution because we value life in this community.”

Health officials recommend parents have broader conversations with their children about the dangers of drugs, recognize the signs of opioid use, and use non-stigmatizing language in their conversations.