The mother of an opioid overdose victim in Virginia is warning the community about the rising prevalence of cocaine cut with the deadly painkiller fentanyl.
Dee Fleming, whose 23-year-old son Joe died from a drug overdose in October, initially assumed he died from ingesting heroin because his best friend suffered a fatal heroin overdose just days earlier. The death report from the corner, however, revealed that Joe Fleming died from ingesting cocaine laced with fentanyl, a synthetic painkiller roughly 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine, reports Fredericksburg.com.
Fleming is speaking out, fearing that a lack of public awareness about the growing prevalence of fentanyl in cocaine supplies will lead to more tragic overdose deaths like her son’s. Cocaine is often consumed as a party drug and tends to be more accessible than drugs like heroin.
“I know it’s terrible to say, but cocaine is generally a more socially accepted drug than heroin is,” Fleming said, according to Fredericksburg.com. “And I don’t think people realize that you can die from it now—especially with these additives—just like you can with heroin. Kids need to know that anything can kill you nowadays, especially with all these synthetic drugs.”
Fentanyl overtook heroin as the deadliest substance in the U.S. in 2016, claiming 19,413 lives last year.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that cocaine overdose deaths increased from roughly 4,000 in 2009 to more than 6,700 in 2015. Officials predict that cocaine overdose deaths are about to explode in 2017 to nearly 11,000. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein previously warned it only takes 2 milligrams of fentanyl, “the equivalent of a few grains of table salt,” to cause a fatal overdose.
Nationally, drug overdoses are the leading cause of accidental death for Americans under age 50, killing 63,600 people in 2016.
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