Georgian Mother Warns About The Threat of Fentanyl-Laced Counterfeits
This editorial by Lisa Hicks was published in The Austin American-Statesman on April 26, 2018. Hicks, who has spoken with PSM about the loss of her son, has been fighting for reforms to protect Americans from these counterfeit pills since his death in 2015.
Commentary: How a counterfeit opioid killed my son
Authorities just seized 2,000 counterfeit Xanax pills headed for Amarillo’s streets. The drugs contained fentanyl, a potent opioid. A dose the size of a grain of sand can kill unsuspecting users.
I know the threats posed by fake, fentanyl-laced drugs too well. Three years ago, my son Joseph Edward Patterson died suddenly after taking a counterfeit painkiller to treat an injury. He was 23-years-old, passionate about physical fitness, and just weeks away from being a father.
Since his death, I’ve made it my mission to protect others from these dangerous knockoff pills. But I can’t do it alone. Our law enforcement and elected officials must do everything in their power to rid America of fake drugs and save lives.
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that’s up to 50 times more powerful than heroin. It’s the main driver of America’s soaring rates of drug overdose deaths. In 2016 alone, over 42,000 Americans died from opioid overdoses — a 28 percent increase compared to 2015. Deaths from fentanyl and other synthetic opioids doubled. Texas’ overdose death rate rose 7.4 percent.
One needn’t be an addict to die from an overdose, as my son’s story makes clear. Joe had a solid job and was studying for a degree in exercise science. His dream was to be a personal trainer.
One day, he pulled a muscle at the gym. He was in serious pain, so he bought what he thought were prescription painkillers from a friend.
Those pills turned out to be counterfeit. And they contained a deadly amount of fentanyl. The next day, my son was gone. Less than two months later, my grandson was born.
Tragedies like these are all too common in Texas. More than 1,000 Texans lost their lives due to accidental opioid poisoning in 2016, according to the Department of State Health Services.
I grieve for the mothers of these Texans. I grieve for their friends and families. And I fear that I will have to grieve for many more victims in the years to come.
Fentanyl-laced counterfeits are becoming commonplace. Authorities have discovered these fake drugs in at least 40 states around the country. Many of these pills are made in Canada and Mexico and smuggled over the border.
Others are made at home. Last year, authorities raided an illegal pill-making ring in San Antonio and Richmond, just southwest of Houston. That operation had put thousands of counterfeit drugs containing fentanyl into circulation before cops shut it down.
Police first alerted Amarillo residents to fentanyl-laced knock-off Xanax last summer. The recent seizure of 2,000 fake pills on their way to the city only confirms the growing threat.
When it comes to controlling the flow of dangerous counterfeit drugs into Texas, there’s simply no room for error. State lawmakers need to do everything in their power to prevent fentanyl-laced fake drugs from entering the state, whether from Mexico or Canada or from elsewhere in the country.
Fentanyl-laced counterfeit drugs took my son’s life and left my grandson fatherless. With smart reforms, we can prevent this scourge from claiming more lives.