“She had a really bright light, she had a really big smile and she befriended everyone who crossed her path,” said Andrea Thomas.
Ashley Romero once dreamed of becoming a medical examiner, instead took a counterfeit pain reliever that contained the poison Fentanyl and died at age 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 across the country who have lost young children because of fentanyl, ”says Thomas.
Shortly after Ashley’s death, her mother Andrea Thomas started the Voices for Awareness Foundation. “Several people were affected and lost the life of a dealership in our area,” says Thomas.
Only 2 milligrams of fentanyl is lethal, “We call it a drug of mass destruction,” Thomas says, and it doesn’t just kill addicts, “fentanyl kills new users. “
To fight fentanyl, state and national agencies are strengthening law enforcement. “These overdose deaths are directly caused by the Mexican drug cartels flooding the United States with deadly fentanyl, with millions of fake pills,” said Anne Milgram, administrator of the DEA.
Traces of fentanyl appear in drugs like prescription marijuana and Xanax, but also in heroin and cocaine. “What we see seized today is about 15% of what actually goes into the country,” Thomas says.
Local prosecutors have seen a dramatic increase in fentanyl cases. “I don’t think we’ve seen anything comparable to Fentanyl during my tenure as prosecutor in terms of the lethality of its availability,” said Rich Tuttle, assistant district attorney.
For teens, providers are as close as social media. “It’s very important that we educate our community,” says Thomas. Warnings arrived too late to save Ashley, “Just a grain can kill,” Tuttle said.
Andrea still hopes that Ashley’s story will inspire others to refuse unsourced drugs that could kill them and their dreams.