Jake Beddoe Sheltered from COVID-19, Only to Die from Fake Xanax

Young man in a black shirt in a green outdoor setting

Jake Beddoe was killed by counterfeit Xanax made with fentanyl on May 27, 2020.

Seeking a good night’s sleep, 25-year-old Jake Beddoe, a young travel consultant with an adventurous heart and a tremendous sense of humor, took part of what he thought was a Xanax pill on May 27, 2020. The pill was counterfeit, and Jake died of fentanyl poisoning.

Jake was part of a close-knit family with four siblings in Trumbull, Connecticut. His mother Niki says he was the family’s jokester. According to his older sister, Carly, he gave hilarious gifts: Hulk hands, a sequined pillow with Nicolas Cage’s face, and, for his father Wally’s birthday, a tennis racket bug zapper that led Jake to run around zapping everyone, his antics causing tremendous laughter amongst the family as usual.

After graduating from college with a philosophy degree and an art minor that reflected his passion for illustration, Jake joined the Peace Corps, serving in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Upon his return, he threw himself into work as a travel consultant in Boston, planning international trips for small groups. When the pandemic happened, Jake, Carly and younger brother Kirk moved back home to quarantine with their parents and youngest sister, Amy. They made the best of it by enjoying movie nights, family dinners and cocktail hours. “It was special,” Carly told us, “to have that time, especially since we all lived in different cities and rarely got the opportunity to spend such quality time together.”

Still, it was stressful. The worldwide pandemic added a great deal of turmoil to the travel industry, and Jake continued to work long hours from his parents’ basement during this very uncertain time. His mom checked in with him about work and COVID-19-related anxiety, but Jake assured her that he would be fine.

On May 26th, Jake fell asleep early after a long workday and missed dinner. When Niki heard him in the kitchen around midnight, she joined him. They talked and laughed until he headed back to his room to watch “Mad Max.” The next morning brought beautiful May weather and as the rest of the family sat outside enjoying coffee, they noted that Jake was sleeping in longer than usual. By 10:30 a.m. Niki decided to check on her son, and found that he wasn’t breathing. Jake’s brother Kirk called 911, and Wally, who is a volunteer firefighter, began CPR, but it was too late. Paramedics pronounced Jake dead around 11:30 a.m.

Quote: “I see casual drug use everywhere—at parties, passed between friends. No one thinks twice. We all think we’re invincible, but it can happen to anyone just as it happened to my brother.” - Jake’s sister, CarlyThe Beddoes discovered shortly after his death that Jake had purchased Xanax from a long-time acquaintance. It was not until July that the family learned from the autopsy report that he died from fentanyl toxicity. Armed with that knowledge, Niki found a small stash of Xanax hidden in a toy bongo drum on his bedroom shelf.

Like many victims before him, Jake had broken what he believed were Xanax bars into three and four pieces to make sure he was taking small doses, unaware that there is no such thing as a safe dose when it comes to pills you buy on the street.

In batches of fake pills, active ingredients and fillers are often not evenly mixed, and parts of the batch may have pills with stronger doses than others. When the University of California tested counterfeit pills associated with deaths in Sacramento, they found some of the tablets were potent enough to kill a non-opioid user three times over; others were weak enough that two of them would not be fatal. This can also be true within a single tablet, so that part of a fake Xanax bar might contain a fatal dose of drugs, while another segment might have no effect at all. Poor quality manufacturing is dangerous enough with alprazolam, but it is even more deadly with fentanyl analogues, where a few grains of the drug are enough to kill unsuspecting people.

The Beddoes are devastated by Jake’s death. His college-age siblings knew about counterfeit prescription pills, but Wally and Niki Beddoe were entirely unaware of them. As a family they want to do everything possible to spare others this pain. “I’ve told our story to everyone I can,” Carly told us. “I see casual drug use every where—at parties, passed between friends. No one thinks twice. We all think we’re invincible, but it can happen to anyone just as it happened to my brother. I don’t want this epidemic to take anyone else I love.”