The monster, fentanyl, struck again. Two bright, young Ohio State University students appear to have joined the heart-breaking list of Ohioans who died by accidental overdose.
Although the investigation is ongoing, it appears that someone laced Adderall, a drug intended to treat attention deficit disorder with the synthetic opioid fentanyl, a drug up to 100 times stronger than morphine. It may be that these students took Adderall to increase their ability to focus when studying.
Whatever the cause, in less than a few hours, the fentanyl hidden in that drug took the lives of a premed student and computer science major who would have no doubt been a great part of our collective future.
Maryhaven Chief Operating Officer Adam Rowan recently spoke out about fentanyl in an op-ed written to support Ohio Senate Bill 296. Adam rightly pointed out that we can save lives by putting more Narcan kits on the street (medication that revives people from overdose) and giving more people test strips that alert users to the presence of fentanyl.
Maryhaven leadership advocated for this legislation, in part, because our Columbus-based team resuscitates someone dying of overdose in our lobby monthly. Our experience tracks with national trends. Fentanyl contributed or caused more than eight of 10 overdose deaths in 2020.
Make no mistake. Fentanyl is not just a big city drug problem, nor is it just about people who are addicted to drugs. It has infiltrated our community and communities all across the state.
The Ohio Department of Health tells us that, for the last 15 years, unintentional drug poisoning surpassed motor vehicle crashes as the leading cause of injury death. And, Ohio experienced more unintentional drug overdose deaths in 2020 than ever before.
No one who tries a drug — even just one time — is safe from the lethality of narcotic originally created in a laboratory for severe pain management. Anything you don’t personally pick up from your pharmacy could kill you. That’s why I hope you will join me and others, set aside judgment and criticism, and encourage everyone we know to be safe.
We should not hesitate to tell people that there is no such thing as a single, harmless drug use.
The Ohio State University Office of Student Life sent this message to everyone on campus after the students were found: “While we strongly discourage any kind of drug misuse, if you, or someone you know, may choose to experiment with drugs … Be aware of the possibility of unexpected contaminates or how drugs may unsafely interact with alcohol. Contaminated drugs can result in a severe and unexpected reaction, including death, from only one use.”
Similarly, Jeff Klinger, CEO of the Central Ohio Hospital Council, warned: “Our emergency rooms are seeing more individuals … (who) did not realize they were taking anything contaminated with fentanyl…”
A former Maryhaven client, Jeremy, stared down the wrong end of overdose by unknowingly using fentanyl. Jeremy now embraces recovery, but he sadly shares, “It seems like we bury a friend in recovery every week from overdose.”
As the regional director for Maryhaven, as a clinician and as a mom, I understand the human tendency to suspend our better judgment. We can tell ourselves nothing bad will happen if we try something just once. But the invisible can yield unexpected life-altering consequences.
Let’s get more fentanyl test strips and Narcan in the community, and let’s talk with our loved ones about what they cannot see.