Fentanyl-containing drugs lead to addiction and death, police say

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Brad Admire tore the labrum in his shoulder while playing soccer for Civic Memorial High School in Bethalto and was prescribed Vicodin to relieve his pain during his recovery from surgery.

He began to abuse his prescription and when the pills ran out he turned to heroin.

“Fentanyl was added to the heroin,” said David Admire, Brad’s father.

Still obviously aching, Admire held back tears and his voice cracked as he described his son who died of a fentanyl overdose that Thanksgiving three years ago.

“He was just so open about everything. He believed in God and really believed in helping others, ”said Admire, who is dedicated to helping others fight addiction. “Brad was one of those kids who would, no matter how hard he struggled … he was still helping someone, especially with drug addiction, he was very compassionate.”

On October 23, the Madison County State Attorney’s Office, Madison County Forensic Medicine and the Sheriff’s Department teamed up with the DEA to host their prescription drug withdrawal initiative to dispose of prescription pills and counterfeit versions hold those who abuse or may abuse them.

The event collected over 1,400 pounds of unwanted or expired drugs in Madison County alone, said Steve Nonn, medical examiner for Madison County.

Fifteen law enforcement agencies across Madison County operate drop boxes to collect unused or expired drugs. They are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

They accept all over-the-counter drugs, vitamins, liquids, narcotics, cough suppressants, prescription drugs, hormones, pain relievers, antibiotics, ointments, oils, and other unidentifiable pills. Things like oxygen bottles, asthma inhalers, mercury thermometers, hearing aids, household waste, sharp objects and needles will not be accepted.

Increase in sales of synthetic drugs

But criminal networks remain, mass-producing synthetic versions of prescription pills that are cheaper and more powerful than their statutory counterparts, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Sales of these illicit drugs have increased nearly 430% since 2019, according to the DEA, driving a surge in opioid addiction and overdoses. DEA lab tests show that two out of five pills containing fentanyl contain a potentially fatal dose.

Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid that is similar to morphine, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. It is a Schedule II prescription drug and is usually used to treat patients with severe pain or to manage pain after surgery. In its legal prescription form, fentanyl is known by names such as Actiq, Duragesic, and Sublimaze.

David Admire learned personally from Brad about his son’s addiction.

“He came to me and told me he was in a dead end and couldn’t get out,” he recalls. “I asked what was going on and he said he was abusing pain pills and using heroin.”

Brad had been abusing his prescribed pain pills for about six months when he was introduced to heroin.

“There is a legal fentanyl that doctors actually use for legitimate pain relievers, but this fentanyl we see on the street is made in home chemistry labs,” Nonn said. “It’s 50 to 100 times stronger than heroin and that’s why we have so many people overdosing on it. Many people who take fentanyl think that they are using heroin and they are not. “

“Russian roulette”

The synthetic fentanyl is illegally sold as a powder, dropped on blotting paper, put into eye drops and nasal sprays, or made into pills that look like other prescription opioids.

Illicitly made fentanyl is very addicting, extremely powerful, and dirt cheap, which makes it very dangerous, Nonn said

“We have seen a large influx of these counterfeit pills across the country, and particularly in cities like St. Louis,” said Emily Murray, a public intelligence officer for the DEA’s Omaha Division. “With the counterfeit pills that come our way, we find that two out of five counterfeit pills tested in the laboratory contain lethal amounts of fentanyl.”

Murray says it doesn’t take a very large dose of a synthetic opioid to lead to a tragic outcome that still pains David Admire. A lethal dose could be as little as two milligrams, which is little more than “a few grains of salt,” said Murray.

“If you don’t know what to get from a fake pill, it’s like playing Russian roulette because you don’t know whether that pill is going to be the two milligrams that are considered lethal or less,” she said.

This story was originally published November 10, 2021 7:00 a.m.

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