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A Parent Should Not Have To Bury A Child

By David Howell

Fentanyl has been in the headlines more and more and what seemed like a distant problem has hit close to home. People are dying from fentanyl overdoses. I have talked to parents who lost a child to a fentanyl overdose. I have talked to EMTs who have revived patients who are overdosing on the drug. I have talked to Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics (MBN) agents about the effects of fentanyl. I believe we are facing an epidemic that has already or will soon surpass methamphetamine use.

Let’s start with the parents who lost a son. They came home and found him on the floor in his bedroom. He had stopped breathing and aspirated. His last text message was to the drug dealer, just minutes before he died. And just minutes after his death his parents came home and found him. Through tears they told me a parent should not have to bury a child.

Strangely the users already know the risks. Some may be hard-core drug users who have developed a tolerance to drugs that are less potent and want something stronger. Some may have developed an opioid addiction from an injury or following a surgery. Their prescriptions have run out and they turn to the street for pills.

An EMT told me that on multiple occasions he has administered narcan to patients who were overdosing and minutes away from death when he arrived on the scene. The narcan quickly revives the patient, but sometimes they become agitated. The high they wanted so bad is gone and he said it can almost lead to a physical altercation.

That is consistent with what an MBN agent told me. The hard core drug users want the strongest high possible, a high that pushes the limits of what the body can withstand. He also told me that fentanyl is the leading cause in 90 percent of the overdose deaths in Mississippi. Statistics from the Mississippi State Department of Health show a rise of over 18 percent in fatalities from 2020 to 2021.

The National Institute of Drug Abuse reports that some drug dealers mix fentanyl with other drugs, such as heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine or MDMA. They do this because fentanyl is cheap and it takes very little to produce a high.

When you think about a drug dealer pushing these potent pills, what we envision may not be reality. Often the people who sell these pills are friends of friends or friends of family members. They may not fit the stereotype. In the case of the parents who shared their story, the dealer was a friend of their son.

Yalobusha County Coroner Ronnie Stark shared that Yalobusha has not been hit as hard with lethal fentanyl deaths as some of the counties around us. At least not yet. In any suspected overdose, he takes a tissue sample to send for a toxicology report. The results are sent to MBN to help track this epidemic.

A synthetic opioid, the fentanyl associated with overdoses are made in labs. It is sold illegally as a powder, dropped onto blotter paper, but most often made into pills that look like other prescription opioids The pills are small enough to fit in a drinking straw, but are 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. They cost as little as $10. In the case of the parents who talked about their son’s death, he purchased two pills for $35 each.

A $70 death sentence – we must sound the alarm.

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