FORT COLLINS, Colo. — Multiple law enforcement agencies are hitting the panic button and warning people street drugs may be laced with fentanyl, a potent synthetic opioid.
The latest reports show overdose deaths are on the rise.
It's an issue that hit's close to home for Rose Nixon. On June 26, 2017, Rose received a call her daughter, Sara Nixon, 36, was in the hospital in Pennsylvania, but it was too late.
“She was my only child and I raised her,” Rose said. “She was my life, and it was gone.”
The medical examiner found fentanyl in Sara's system.
“It was six times a fatal dose of fentanyl,” Rosee said.
The medical examiner told her she died instantly, “because it’s so powerful.”
Rose doesn’t believe her daughter took the fentanyl intentionally.
“She was afraid of fentanyl,” Rose said.
For more than a decade, Sara struggled with addiction.
It all began when she was 21-years-old and got into a car accident. Her mom said doctors prescribed her OxyContin. The pill addiction took off, and she spiraled.
“She was a real heroin addict,” Rose said.
Sara was in and out of rehab over the years. In 2017, she decided she wanted to try cosmetology school.
“She says, ‘at 36, going back to school seems a little scary,’" Rose said, reading Sara's letter for her cosmetology school interview.
On the day of her interview, Sara was found dead.
“She’s very present, always,” Rose said. “She was quirky, and she was beautiful. I just loved her so much. I just miss her, I just miss her a lot. I miss the potential of her so much, what she could have been.”
The powerful drug that took Sara's life is similar to morphine, but more potent.
“Fentanyl is 50 to 100 times stronger than opioids,” Trina Fatz with the Boulder County Substance Use Advisory Group said.
In a one-year span starting in May of 2019 and ending in May of 2020, more than 81,000 overdose deaths were reported in the United States. It’s the highest number of overdose deaths in a one year span, according to recent provisional data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The latest numbers suggest an acceleration of overdose deaths during the pandemic, according to the report.
“I think the isolation, the disconnect for people,” Fatz said. “The fact that a lot of people who were strong in their recovery have relapsed due to the low availability or accessibility of services.”
According to reporting from the Colorado Sun, overdose deaths involving fentanyl more than doubled in 2020, with 452 deaths reported compared to 214 in 2019. In Boulder County, multiple law enforcement agencies are warning people street drugs, like Xanax, may be laced with Fentanyl.
“If you get this by accident, you don’t get a second chance,” Rose Nixon said.