GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (FOX) – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say 100,000 Americans died of drug overdoses last year, more than ever before. At the heart of the epidemic, the rising menace of Fentanyl.
“She had a very big light, she had a very big smile and she made friends with everybody that crossed her path,” Andrea Thomas says.
Ashley Romero once dreamed of becoming a forensic scientist, instead she took a counterfeit painkiller laced with the poison Fentanyl and died at 32. “Three years ago, I didn’t know what Fentanyl was, my daughter didn’t know what Fentanyl was and now I get calls every day from mothers all across the country that have lost young children to Fentanyl,” Thomas explains.
Shortly after Ashley died, her mother Andrea Thomas started the Voices for Awareness Foundation. “There were several people affected and lost their lives from one dealer in our area,” Thomas says.
Just 2 milligrams of Fentanyl is lethal, “We call it a drug of mass destruction,” Thomas says, and its not just killing addicts, “Fentanyl is killing first time users.”
To fight Fentanyl, state and national agencies are beefing up enforcement. “These overdose deaths are directly caused by Mexican drug cartels that are flooding the United States with deadly Fentanyl, with millions of fake pills,” Anne Milgram, DEA Administrator says.
Traces of Fentanyl are showing up in drugs like Marijuana and prescription Xanax but also in Heroine and Cocaine. “What we see seized today is about 15% of what’s actually coming into the country,” Thomas says.
Local prosecutors have seen a huge uptick in Fentanyl cases. “I don’t believe we’ve seen anything that parallels Fentanyl in my time as a prosecutor in terms of its availability lethality,” Rich Tuttle, Assistant District Attorney says.
For teens, suppliers are as close as social media. “It is very important that we bring awareness into our community,” Thomas says. Warnings that came too late to save Ashley, “Just a speck can kill,” Tuttle said.
Still Andrea hopes Ashley’s story will make others refuse unsourced drugs that could kill them and their dreams.