With fentanyl, Logan had no chance

Youth are unprepared for the widespread proliferation of deadly fentanyl

By Erin Rachwal

Valentine’s Day is normally filled with roses and candy, happiness and memories of celebrating the ones we love. I had always been a mom to make a big deal of holidays and birthdays and just as I was staring at my son’s Valentine’s gift bag, our phone rang. At 8:37 pm, on February 14, 2021, our world changed forever. Notified of some sort of emergency, we drove down to his college campus. Our sweet Logan, 19 years old, was found dead and lying in his dorm bed. He had been there since early that morning. Logan took a pill and died from a fentanyl poisoning.

In the fall of 2020, he began college at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee. We were hopeful of a new beginning. Logan came home on weekends for dinners, laundry, visits, etc. He also communicated with us daily via calls or texts but because of Covid exposures, visits were limited. The day before Valentine’s Day we received what would now be Logan’s last text message to us on our group chat. “Hi Mom and Dad, Happy Saturday! I am at work and just wanted to say I love you!” We both replied that we loved him too. Unbeknownst to us, this was our last message to him. The next morning, he was gone. He had most likely been laying in his dorm for almost 12 hours. Later we learned that he had been upset and was on facetime with his girlfriend for five hours. He took a pill, and minutes later, began snoring and fell asleep. His girlfriend did not know that snoring was the beginning of a fentanyl poisoning so she hung up the phone. For us, Valentine’s Day changed forever.

There is such a stigma in our world with kids who die from substances, but these drugs do not discriminate. Fentanyl has changed the game and kids are unknowingly being poisoned. Our children are being lured by dealers through social media to take something to feel better. ONE TIME can kill. ONE TIME did kill. If they survive, ONE TIME can give a child an addiction that they never intended to have.

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. Youth in particular are increasingly accessing these substances online, and many do not know the risks of fentanyl, the signs of an overdose, or what to do in case of an overdose.

The Solution

Increased education about the proliferation of fentanyl and its risks is needed, particularly for youth. Better understanding the widespread presence of fentanyl and its associated risks can help save lives by preventing youth and others from using substances and by helping individuals that still choose to use substances do so safely by testing substances for the presence of fentanyl before use, not using alone, having naloxone on hand, etc.

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.