My Son Died From a Fentanyl Overdose, Don’t Let it Happen To You

CNN hosted a town hall addressing the opioid crisis in America

It’s been a long six months since my son died from a fentanyl overdose. And while writing about is challenging, I continue to advocate about it so it doesn’t happen to you. Please view my recent posts about Fentanyl here and here.

CNN recently aired a town hall meeting titled America Addicted – The Fentanyl Crisis. It was both informative and emotional. They represented all sides of this scourge from doctors, sociologists, and the DEA Administrator to parents who lost their kids from Fentanyl overdoses.

How Much Fentanyl Is There?

The DEA released new numbers regarding seizures of Fentanyl. In 2022 12,000 pounds of Fentanyl were seized by the agency and so far in just 2 months of 2023 they have already seized 14,000 pounds (that’s more than three times the amount). Last year one seizure in South Carolina included enough Fentanyl to kill the entire population of the state. Obviously, our country’s efforts to combat the supply are clearly failing.

The Fentanyl Trail

So how does it get here? Tracing the manufacture and sale of the drug reveals the precursor drugs are made in labs in China (and their government is well aware and does nothing to sanction them). The labs ship the precursor drugs to Mexico where they are transformed into either pills that look exactly like a prescription drug (like Oxycontin, Adderall, Xanax, Ativan etc.) or powder form to mimic cocaine, heroin, or Methamphetamine.

Fentanyl is made to look exactly like prescription drugs to purposely fool buyers
Photo courtesy of the University of Boulder

What You Need to Know so You Can Help Your Kids From Overdosing

The cartels have gotten very sophisticated in their ability to sell the drug globally. They target teens on the internet using fake social accounts. They befriend kids for a while before trying to sell them the lethal drug (no more than the size of a pencil point is needed to overdose). Many kids overdosed last year by unknowingly purchasing the drug on platforms like Facebook Marketplace, Snapchat, and Instagram. In essence, the Mexican cartels purposely murdered our children. The DEA says these sites do not allow any outside auditors or other security teams to review their technology to detect and shut down the fake accounts that sell them.

According to Ann Milgram – the DEA Administrator, this is a new drug crisis unlike any other we have seen in the past. Cartels used to sell illicit drugs like cocaine and marijuana – which teens knowingly experimented with. Now they are purposely out to murder them.

How My Son Died From an Accidental Fentanyl Overdose

My son was in a Methadone program for the last two years of his life. It worked really well in helping him combat his Substance Use Disorder. But, during those years the drug supply drastically changed, and when he had a “slip” (which is extremely common during recovery) he died from an overdose of Fentanyl.

In his case, he bought it on the streets of Newark, NJ (about a 15-minute drive from our suburban community) where young dealers stand on many street corners knowingly selling lethal doses of Fentanyl under the pretense that is another drug. We’ve seen it with our own eyes and it is frightening. And if we know who and where they are, don’t the police have an obligation to arrest them over and over until they scare them out of the business?

This is essentially a national healthcare crisis for kids and parents. That’s why every arm of the government from the Drug Enforcement Agency to the National Institute of Health and the Health and Human Services Agency must pool their resources to keep our kids alive. This is not a political issue, a race issue, or a sociological issue. Fentanyl-related deaths cross all parties, colors, and socio-economic groups.

Don’t Let it Happen to You

Here are some very practical measures you can take to make sure this doesn’t happen to you:

  • Make sure your teen has Narcan (a nasal spray that reverses overdoses) on them at all times. In most states, it is sold over the counter at a drugstore. While it won’t save their own life because once a person is overdosing they won’t be able to use it, it could save a friend’s life
  • Make sure your child’s school has a plentiful supply of Narcan on hand and that kids are aware of how to access it.
  • Reinforce to your son or daughter that if they are having problems with anxiety (or any other mental health issue) they know to come to you for help rather than self-medicating by purchasing a counterfeit pill online.
  • Look for signs of opioid addiction in your kids (dilated pupils, red eyes, slurred speech, craving sugary foods, and listlessness) and make recovery options available.
  • Educate your kids about the very real dangers of innocently experimenting (as teens will do) with any pill or powdery substance at a party, a friend’s house, and especially from the internet.
  • If you know someone who died of a Fentanyl overdose, you can have their picture posted on a wall at the DEA in their latest exhibit titled “Faces of Fentanyl.” Send their name, date of death, and attach a picture to or add a pic to any social accounts you have with the hashtag #JustKNOW and they will add it to the wall.

More Information and Resources are Available At:

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Published by Amy Sandelman Harris

Welcome to our community. I use my voice on my blog to affect change through philanthropy, advocacy, and activism. My blog is meant to inspire people to get involved.

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