By Kim Waltrip
The dangers of drug abuse, particularly the alarming presence of fentanyl, has reached deep into our communities. It has affected my family, a few of my friends and it trickles down into our society as a whole. One pill can kill, and that’s all it takes to devastate one person, one family, one community.
The potency of fentanyl and the ease with which it can be obtained have made it an ever-present danger and one that must be talked about. Addressing the crisis has required an extraordinary collective effort involving not only first responders, law enforcement, educators and community leaders but it includes every single one of us. It is crucial that we have the conversation about the dangers of illicit drugs, and we must be resilient and relentless in talking about this epidemic.
Just two grams of fentanyl can take a life. It is 100% more potent than morphine and 50 times stronger than heroin. The Drug Enforcement Agency says that the cartels make and supply fentanyl either as a standalone substance, as an additive laced in other dangerous street drugs – heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine – or, as a substitute for those drugs. It’s purposely and deceptively added to other drugs because of its extreme potency, making drugs cheaper, more powerful, more addictive and more dangerous.
A drug dealer in San Francisco reportedly said he didn’t “give a f— about the overdoses. You make your choice to put that s— in your mouth. That’s your business. I need to make my money.” This is unconscionable and the amount of fentanyl on the streets has increased threefold compared to 2020. It is a game changer and we need to sound the alarm.
I joined the nonprofit Mothers Against Prescription Drug Abuse (MAPDA) with a heavy heart after knowing first-hand the devastating toll of lives that have been taken from fentanyl. Their tragic and preventable deaths served as a wake-up call, compelling me to take action. I hope to contribute to a collective effort to prevent further loss of young lives to this deadly epidemic.
MAPDA started a campaign called “The Greatest Gift is a Conversation,” which focuses on the importance of having a conversation with as many people as possible to help protect them from the dangers of drug abuse and especially from the illicit killer fentanyl. Parents often think it’s too early to talk about drug abuse, or that their child isn’t at risk from these dangers, but the number of children who are at risk for possible overdoses and possible fentanyl poisoning is growing exponentially. The devastation this drug has brought has affected hundreds of thousands of family members, friends and communities.
There’s just no reason to gamble your life with one use, so we at MAPDA invite everyone to Take the Pledge on our website, MAPDA.net. Promise that you’ll have the conversation. That you’ll talk about the dangers of drugs. When you sign up you’ll receive an e-certificate recognizing your efforts. We encourage everyone to share a photo with that certificate on social media, inspiring others to do the same.
We also encourage everyone to carry naloxone, which is a lifesaving medication to reverse the effects of an overdoes due to opioids or narcotics. It is an opioid antagonist, which means it binds to opioids receptors and can reverse and block the effects of opioids such as heroine, morphine, and oxycodone. The medication can either be given through nasal spray (NARCAN) or intramuscular (into the outer thigh or another major muscle). Naloxone is safe and easy to use, and it works almost immediately and is not addictive. MAPDA is a proud supporter of the School Access to Naloxone Act, which greatly improves access to naloxone in schools. No student should have to walk into school with the fear of losing a classmate to an accidental overdose. And most states follow the Good Samaritan law that says that it is not a crime for any person who experiences a drug-related overdose, who, in good faith, seeks medical assistance, or any other person who, in good faith, seeks medical assistance for the person experiencing a drug related overdose.
Last month a one year old boy died from fentanyl exposure at a day care in New York City. The fentanyl that killed him was hidden in the nap room under a mat as he slept. Three other children were treated with NARCAN and are recovering. This is an unimaginable tragedy that brings profound grief and heartbreak to families. And, the devastation of such a loss extends far beyond the immediate family, affecting friends, communities and society at large.
This serves as a stark reminder of the urgent need for comprehensive efforts to combat the opioid crisis and the road ahead remains arduous. But, we must be determined and committed to having an open and honest discussion about drug awareness. It is a proactive step towards saving lives. So please, have the talk…The Greatest Gift is a Conversation.
MAPDA was founded in 2011 by Janet Janes, whose 19-year-old son overdosed from experimenting with prescription drugs. She created the group with the help of other grieving mothers, who had also suffered similar devastating losses, out of a need to protect others from going through the same pain. Today, MAPDA is a nationally recognized 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization focused on solutions, prevention education, and drug awareness communication programs. We have a small team made up of our incredible CEO, former Congresswoman Hon. Mary Bono, a board of amazing powerhouse women and mothers from across the country, a dedicated advisory board and a hardworking communications team dedicated to the cause.