A Day at the Pool Becomes a Night at the Morgue

by Dr. SooMi Lee-Samuel MD

rsz_11rsz_jay-wennington-280323Heroin became a widely used drug in the 1960s, it seemed to drop off of the radar for a while, then returned with a vengeance via black tar heroin from Mexico. Today’s nationwide opiate addiction started with heroin then essentially exploded due to pharmaceuticals such as OxyContin, which was approved by the FDA in 1995.

One of the many unfortunate aspects of drug addiction, is that those involved are always looking for an even better “high.” Enter fentanyl.

This synthetic drug, 100 times stronger than heroin, delivers that high. Regrettably, it also delivers a tremendous amount of death.

In Florida, an overdose from heroin and fentanyl occurs every two hours and in Dade County alone more people die from this drug combination than from traffic accidents or homicide.

And then there are the unwitting and far more tragic victims. On June 23, Alton Banks, a ten-year-old Miami boy, spent time at a public pool. We can imagine him splashing in the water, roughhousing with friends, perhaps practicing his diving skills. What we cannot bring ourselves to imagine is that within only a few minutes of returning home, he was dead.

Here is what drug dealers don’t know and probably wouldn’t care anyway. Although the primary methods of getting fentanyl on board are ingesting, injecting and inhaling, the drug can simply be absorbed through the skin. Due to its extreme potency, the fentanyl that killed this young boy could possibly sit on the head of a pin; literally, a mere spec of this drug absorbed through the skin can easily prove fatal. Not surprisingly, police officers have been warned to never touch the drug.

Certainly, the death of a fifth-grade boy who loved the Carolina Panthers is about as bad as a story can get. Yet, Alton is only one of the thousands of casualties of the opiate crisis. Throughout our country, children are left abandoned or orphaned every day due to parents that die, are incarcerated or simply fall off the grid due to addiction.

To its credit, Florida has passed legislation that makes it possible to charge dealers with murder if they provide a fatal dose of fentanyl or drugs mixed with fentanyl. The new law goes into effect October 1.This is a positive step; however, it will ultimately take many, many more significant steps to get this opiate problem under control.

 

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