Police in New York City recently arrested a narcotics dealer for allegedly selling a fatal dose of the potent opioid to a special education teacher who overdosed in a school bathroom.
Authorities charged 31-year-old Kashawn Lyons for drug distribution Friday, which carries a prison sentence of 20 years to life. He, along with 31-year-old Terrick Whitaker, are accused of selling fentanyl to 36-year-old Matthew Azimi, who died on Nov. 30 after shooting up inside a locked bathroom at PS X811 in the Bronx, reported the New York Daily News.
His body was later found by a school custodian along with a heroin baggie and a hypodermic needle. Undercover officers subsequently bought heroin and fentanyl from Lyons and Whitaker, who still remains at large, which was packaged in the same material found with Azimi.
“It’s too late for my husband. But if they can get this guy off the street, other people can have their lives saved,” Rachel Marbach, Azimi’s wife, who was six months pregnant with their daughter when he died, told the New York Daily News. “We are doing the best we can. We miss Matt terribly. I am not kidding — I think of him every second of the day.”
Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of accidental death for Americans under age 50, killing more than 64,000 people in 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The increase is driven primarily by opioids, which claimed 42,249 lives in 2016, a 28 percent increase over the roughly 33,000 lives lost to opioids in 2015. Opioid overdoses made up a staggering 66 percent of all drug overdose deaths in 2016, surpassing the annual number of lives lost to breast cancer.
Deaths from synthetic opioids like fentanyl, which is roughly 30 to 50 times more powerful than pure heroin, experienced a particularly dramatic increase, more than doubling from 9,580 lives in 2015 to 19,413 lives in 2016.
The epidemic is contributing to declining life expectancy in the U.S., officials say. Life expectancy dropped for the second consecutive year in 2016 for the first time since an outbreak of influenza in 1962 and 1963.
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