Recently I was sipping a warm beverage, enjoying my morning reading when I came across a story that touched me deeply.
It began as a simple message of thanks from a woman whose family was going through a very painful time. She wasn’t sure how they would get through the holidays without the smiling presence of her 19-year-old nephew, who had died just days before.
“I know people are curious about what happened, and mostly, they’re asking for the right reasons,” she wrote. She had decided to share all the details in hopes of helping others.
How a late-night hangout went wrong
Her nephew, whom I’ll call Chris, spent the last night of his life much like any other college student might. He and his friends stayed up late, eating pizza and playing video games in the basement.
At some point, one of the friends offered Chris a pill that was stamped with the name Percocet, a prescription opioid commonly used to relieve pain.
Chris had no history of drug use. He was a star athlete, a loving son and brother, a strong presence in his community. No one knows why he and a friend decided to take the pills that night. Maybe it was simple curiosity. Or the fact that they trusted the buddy who offered them the drug.
Both young men died almost instantly, according to first responders who rushed to the scene later. Chris’s mom found them both the next morning, and when she couldn’t wake them, she dialed 911.
An opioid that’s 80 to 100 times stronger than morphine
Medical personnel say the pills were most likely laced with fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that has caused thousands of overdoses and deaths across the country in 2018 alone.
“We are still waiting for medical reports,” Chris’s aunt wrote, “but we’ve been told the the pills may have been up to 50% fentanyl. According to the detective working on the case, that’s enough to kill 10 men.”
Just knowing that fentanyl is a powerful opioid doesn’t begin to explain why it’s so lethal.
This man-made drug is 80 to 100 times stronger than morphine. It was originally developed to treat the worst pain suffered by cancer patients. In powder form, it looks so much like heroin that users can’t tell the difference. Drug dealers often pass fentanyl off as heroin, and due to the difference in strength, thousands of users have lost their lives.
“There can be no experimenting” with prescription drugs
Chris had big dreams. He wanted to be a father someday. He looked forward to playing football and baseball in college, hunting and fishing with his grandfather, and enjoying more time with his close friends.
“One bad choice was all it took to end this beautiful life,” his aunt wrote.
And she went on to raise a key point that really resonated with me.
Kids experiment with prescription drugs because they assume they’re safe. If they weren’t, why would the doctor prescribe them in the first place?
The idea that pills or capsules that look like they came from a family medicine cabinet could be laced with a harmful substance might never occur to young people who are just hanging out, looking for a little fun.
“You can’t see fentanyl. You can’t smell it,” Chris’s aunt pointed out. “The only way to be safe is to remember: there can be no experimenting.”
This is the wisest advice you can possibly share with your loved ones. And if you are concerned that a member of your family is playing around with opioids or prescription drugs, we are here to help you start the conversation.