Fentanyl contamination led to my son’s overdose

Substances containing fentanyl are increasingly driving overdose deaths

By Sandy Snodgrass

In summer 2021 Bruce said he wanted to get treatment for his substance use. His mother, Sandy, immediately secured a bed in a medical detox facility and then transferred Bruce to the inpatient Chanlyut program, run by the Cook Inlet Tribal Council. Bruce graduated, moved home with his mom and embarked on outpatient treatment. The treatment program gave him a mountain bike, and he found joy riding around Anchorage trails. His daily schedule revolved around intensive outpatient meetings and counseling.

Then came the day in October when Bruce left, saying he was going for a bike ride. “Be careful out there,” she told him. Tragically, Bruce was found dead at 11:38 a.m. on October 28, 2021, in the Carrs parking lot on DeBarr Road. A dog walker noticed his body and called the police. The police officer who met Sandy at the location where Bruce’s body was found had come from notifying a different family about an overdose death.

Sandy’s son couldn’t be saved, but she is doing everything in her power to ensure this doesn’t happen to another family. While Bruce overdosed on fentanyl, Sandy does not think that he knew the drug he took was fentanyl. She believes there needs to be education about the lethality of all street drugs because of the potential that they could be contaminated by fentanyl.

The Problem

The continuing rise in overdose deaths is driven largely by fentanyl, a particularly lethal synthetic opioid. Preliminary data shows that more than half of all overdose deaths in 2021 involved synthetic opioids. Nearly 90% of opioid overdose deaths involve fentanyl.

Due to its potency and low cost, fentanyl is increasingly being found in other substances, including counterfeit pills and stimulants. People using these substances often do not know they contain opioids or fentanyl. These individuals are at particularly increased risk for overdose because they may not have any tolerance to opioids or be prepared to reverse an overdose with naloxone.

The Solution

It is imperative to raise public awareness about the proliferation of fentanyl and its risks. Educating the public about the presence of fentanyl in a wide range of substances can help prevent overdose deaths by equipping people with the knowledge to use substances safely, either by choosing to avoid use altogether due to the heightened risk, testing substances for the presence of fentanyl before use, not using alone, or having naloxone on hand.

Take Action

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Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2023 promotes fentanyl education

Send a letter to your members of Congress thanking them for passing the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2023, which includes provisions to promote fentanyl awareness. This includes requiring a public education campaign to raise awareness of synthetic opioids, information for health care providers on synthetic opioids, and a training guide and webinar for first responders and others at risk for exposure to synthetic opioids.