Fentanyl’s Fatal Attraction – 4 Signs of Danger You Need to Know
Let’s not talk statistics for a minute.
We’ll get to it – but the cold numbers don’t do justice to the pain, loss, and utter devastation in the lives of individuals and families touched by our nation’s fentanyl crisis.
If you haven’t known anyone who’s lost a child, friend, or family member to this epidemic, then take a moment to consider –
- The moment when mom, Lydie Lavenir, went to check on her napping toddler at their vacation rental, only to discover her foaming at the mouth and unresponsive. Lydie and her husband, Boris lost their daughter, Enora, to fentanyl, likely from a previous party at the Airbnb they rented. They have filed a lawsuit but will never cradle their little girl again.1
- Three young adults, 17-year-old Sophia Harris, and brothers Caleb (20) and Kyler (18) Keissling, died in the summer of 2020 after taking fake Percocet pills with deadly doses of fentanyl. Their mom, Rebecca, testified before the U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security in February of this year, begging lawmakers to take action to secure the border and stem the tide of drugs. 2
- Grammy Award-winning Christian Artist, Toby Mac, lost his son, Truett, at 21. According to the artist, his son had not been a drug user other than a prescription dealing with an attention disorder but had lately been struggling to sleep. A promising musician in his own right, Truett had performed his first concert with his dad cheering him on. It would be the last time Toby saw his son alive. He received the news soon after he’d left for a Canadian concert tour. Truett had taken what he thought was Xanax – but it had contained lethal fentanyl. 3
- A Nebraska mother was charged with negligent child abuse when her four-year-old boy died after he allegedly found his mom’s medicine, which she claims she believed was Percocet. It contained a lethal dose of fentanyl. 4
Why Fentanyl – And What Is It?
It’s been front and center in news reports as the chief danger among drugs abused purposefully and by those who believe they are receiving something else (often Oxycodone, Percocet, Xanax, and others). However, this synthetic opioid hasn’t always been the villain, as it has legitimated medicinal uses. A powerful painkiller, fentanyl, has been vital in treating the severe pain associated with late-stage cancer and other extreme discomforts from various conditions and relieving torment during end-of-life treatment. Most of us think of morphine as the big dog in the battle against pain, but fentanyl – clearly best used in rare and extreme conditions – is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine.5
Now, it’s pouring across our open border from Mexico, reaching – not the chronically ill but the chronically addicted. While much is seized – the amount that has gotten through and shipped to towns and cities across our country is largely unknown. What we see is the results: Fentanyl is now the number one cause of death of those between the ages of 18 and 45.6 It kills more than car accidents, illness, and chronic health conditions, which held true even during the worldwide pandemic. It only takes 2 milligrams for most to have consumed a lethal dose, and roughly ½ of the “fake” pills purchased (fake Oxy, Percocet, Xanax, etc.) contain well over that amount.7
There are four signs of danger you need to know that make our youth vulnerable to this devastating and widely circulated substance.
Danger Sign #1 – Easy Accessibility Via The Internet And Friends
It’s easy to fall into false security by imagining that your child would never – could never – gain access to that deadly dose; however, even with the few examples we mentioned, three of those were children or non-regular drug users who just happened upon the substance through a fake pill someone else shared.
On a recent Focus on the Family broadcast, Toby Mac told his story, sharing that his son had not been a regular drug buyer/user, judging from his cell phone and other investigation as the distraught parents sought to understand what happened. In fact, as far as they can discern, it was the first time Truett had purchased a pill from someone online – simply hoping to remedy his insomnia.
We can think that our kids “know better” than to accept a pill from a friend who wants to share – but remember that during the teen years – and even middle school – children begin to pull away in various ways, including becoming more tied into friends and their interests.
Kids can now easily purchase all illicit drugs and supposed prescription pills online with a superficial knowledge of an emoji language that communicates with dealers what they’d like to purchase. The following chart, published by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), shows some commonly used emojis and what they mean when seeking medications online on all the biggies: Snapchat, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook.8
Danger Sign #2 – Parents Who Are Pals First
The relationship you are building with your child is of inestimable value. We only run into trouble when we fashion ourselves as true peers – buddies – in our kids’ lives instead of loving, teaching, coaching, and caring coaches with parental authority. Get the difference?
You can still build a friendship with your young ones, loosening your grip as they approach adulthood, but never forget that you are a parent, and they (whether they realize it or not) rely on your wisdom to protect them from unnecessary harm. No one else will stand in the gap for your child, and no one will say hard things or broach difficult subjects, risking their disapproval.
Have frank discussions about drug risks. Do them the life-saving favor of telling them what’s happening in the world of “prescription” and illicit drug use. Even if they swear they’ll never take anything, ask them to indulge you as you share what you’ve learned. Let them know they should NEVER take ANYTHING (other than over-the-counter medications) unless it is prescribed by their doctor for them! Don’t accept ANY pill from a friend – even a well-meaning one.
One awkward conversation could mean the difference between life and death for your son or daughter.
Danger Sign #3 – When The Crisis Appears – It’s Almost Too Late
As we just discussed, these conversations must happen before trouble shows itself. When the crisis appears, it’s often too late. Too many parents have learned that lesson graveside as they say goodbye to their beloved children.
Make conversation open and free. Ensure your kids know that no topic is off-limits in your family. Let them know there won’t be parental blowback if they come to you with concerns about stuff they’ve experienced in school, parties, and among their friends. When they know they can trust you to be a listening ear – offering heartfelt, non-judgmental advice – you will be in a great position to intervene if danger signs begin to appear in their lives.
Be on the lookout for changes in friends, hygiene or health, eating habits, and more – and always gently inquire when your mom-sense tells you something could be up.
We posted a previous blog about “6 Weapons You Have Right Now to Protect Your Kids From Drugs,” which may give you some additional food for thought.
If you find yourself in the terrifying position of wondering if your child is experiencing an opioid overdose, look for the following symptoms:
- “Pinpoint” or small pupils
- Loss of consciousness
- Labored breathing or choking, gurgling
- No breathing (respiratory arrest)
- Skin changes: pale, blue, or cold
- Slowed heart rate
- Becoming unresponsive to sounds or stimulation9
If you see some of these symptoms, call 911. If you have Narcan to administer (more about that below) – do it, but also call for emergency help.
Danger Sign #4 – Open Border Policy – Supporting The Drug Explosion In America
Over 800 pounds of deadly fentanyl has been seized at the Mexican/US border since last fall. Though that was captured, there is no clear indication of how much made it into American cities and communities. For perspective, agents discovered 232 lbs in one traffic stop, enough to kill more than 50 million people. 10
Despite the vigorous claims by the current administration, specifically from Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas – “The border is secure. The border is closed,” the facts don’t line up with that claim. Since President Biden took over, there have been more than 1.2 million “got aways,” according to border agents.11 That is part of a more significant number of illegal immigrant encounters numbering more than five million in this relatively brief period. So, with drug cartels taking advantage of this open border policy, it has become a booming and lucrative international trade, along with another enormous crisis – human trafficking. To read more about the devastation on our borders, check out our president, Kimberly Fletcher’s recent blog.
No matter who you listen to in the media – facts are facts. The border is open, and until President Biden takes meaningful action, dangerous drugs are pouring into the U.S. with relative ease.
Protection For Your Family: Narcan
One practical and positive development in the drug war has been the increased availability of Narcan. It is a nasal spray medication that can often save a person’s life when suffering a fentanyl overdose. When the unconscious victim is given Narcan, they can rebound quickly. Of course, they need further medical treatment. Still, Narcan can be a bridge back from death when administered immediately. Transporting someone to the hospital can often prove too late for Narcan’s life-saving impact. It makes all the difference if available for immediate use when the person becomes distressed or unconscious.
Should you have Narcan in your home? That is up to you. You may want to consider it as a sort of “fire extinguisher” tucked away in the medicine cabinet in case the unthinkable happens to your child or to one of their friends while in your home. It is now available at many pharmacies and other organizations with Narcan distribution programs.12
It’s a different world in some ways, with challenges many of us thought we’d never face – but as moms, we will do what it takes to protect our families and pull our nation back from the brink.
The best-case scenario is that it never reaches your doorstep. We believe that you can affect your family’s preparedness and safety by keeping the lines of communication open with your family – and by talking openly about the tough stuff.