One of the more common causes of becoming addicted to opioids and then dying of fentanyl comes from injuries in high school sports. I interviewed the parents of a young man who lost his life to fentanyl just a year ago. Their son (I will call him Jack) was a Troy Tech student, played football, and was a captain of the wrestling team. Jack suffered a shoulder injury and had surgery. He was given OxyContin for the pain and as time went on, he became addicted to it.
The pain came back but the prescription had run out. Dealing with the pain and working with the doctors to manage the pain was time-consuming and difficult. He was frustrated. A friend gave him a prescription drug that his family had. It worked to take away the pain. At that point, he started to get OxyContin from drug dealers. He was able to get off the drug for periods of time while in college. In fact, he was able to do very well in college, hold down multiple jobs, and live a vibrant happy life during these Years.
After graduation, during the peak of the pandemic, Jack found it very difficult to find a full-time job in his profession and subsequently relapsed. This time he sought out a drug dealer to purchase some pills. He met the dealer in Los Angeles and went with him to a restaurant. In the bathroom of the restaurant, he went to take the drug (a pill), which unknown to him contained fentanyl; it immediately killed him. This story and ones like it are told more and more often today—young people in the prime of their lives who take a pill to alleviate some pain or anxiety that ends up taking their lives. Jack had every reason to live. He had a girlfriend to whom he was going to marry, had recently graduated from California State University, Fullerton the previous January, and had a promising engineering career and life to look forward to. He died May 9, 2021. Jack was “a clean-cut kid” with a promising future. If you were to meet Jack when he was alive, you would not know he had a dependency problem.
Jack’s parents did not know how often their son used drugs, which is common with families as kids do not share everything with their parents. Even when there is good communication between kids and their parents, there are some secrets. Not telling parents is a part of growing up and becoming independent, but can sometimes lead to unfortunate and tragic consequences of taking drugs from street dealers or even friends. My daughter Nancy’s nephew Travis died when he thought he was taking a Xanax for anxiety, but it contained fentanyl. It happens more often than you think.
It is important as a parent, friend, teacher, or sibling to educate ourselves on the types of drugs that are available on the street and online so we can have conversations with our youth to reduce these unnecessary deaths by fentanyllaced drugs. The new terminology for these drug overdoses is that they are not overdoses, but instead poisonings and the drug dealers need to be tried as murderers.
Please be a part of the solution and save our youths from dying. Let’s educate ourselves and talk about it to everyone we know who has kids to warn them of this very serious drug epidemic in our country that is killing our young people at an alarmingly rising rate. This is not just a problem among our youths who suffer from addiction—this is a problem for any young person who might take one or two pills from a friend at a party or a concert for the first time. These drugs are everywhere and can be purchased online on sites like Snapchat and the Dark Web and delivered to one’s home. The young person might have no idea that taking one pill can end their life.
In memory of Jack and Travis and many others who have lost their future to fentanyl.
Contact Orange County Health Care Agency at 714-834-2192 if you or a loved one is struggling with addiction or go on the website, www.ochealthinfo.com.