Dope Sick: The Tragic Story of a Friendship Lost to Fentanyl

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Everyone looked at him with loathing and he saw the deep hurt behind their hatred. Their son - their brother - was dead...and it was his fault. “I didn’t mean to hurt him!” Justin wanted to scream, “I miss him too!”

It’d been a month. Thirty-one days. 744 hours. Over 40,000 minutes since he’d “killed” his best friend. Each second of the day filled with nothing but regret.

Was it technically called “killing” if it was an accident? DJ was dead either way, so Justin guessed semantics didn’t matter much at this point. DJ was gone and he was in jail. If he could just go back and keep DJ from taking that powder.

If Justin had known it wasn’t the typical heroin they used all the time. If only he’d realized it was fentanyl...things would be so different. DJ would still be alive. That look in DJ’s family’s eyes would be gone. Justin wouldn’t have to endure this guilt, shame and pain.

A Tale Too Common

The documentary, Dope Sick, tells this tragic story of two young men whose friendship ended in death, after years of mutual, escalating drug use. DJ and Justin started with marijuana in high school, moved on to prescription painkillers and then heroin. When DJ called Justin that fateful day and said he was dope sick, Justin knew his buddy needed a heroin fix, so he contacted his dealer and brought the half-gram to his friend. Thirty minutes later, DJ was gone.

DJ became one of the nearly 30,000 Americans who die each year from opioids - but this case was different. Investigations revealed DJ overdosed, not on heroin, but on fentanyl. Neither he nor Justin realized they were using the highly potent and potentially lethal painkiller.

This story could become more and more common, as fentanyl floods the market. It’s often sold to buyers who think they’re getting typical heroin, prescription pain pills or Xanax. Instead, they receive fentanyl, which is up to 50 times more powerful than heroin. Dealers make more money by substituting the lower cost opiate for other drugs. When buyers don’t know their suppliers have pulled a switcheroo, people like DJ end up dead.

Waking Up the Public

This threat has become so severe that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Drug Enforcement Administration were forced to release public alerts to warn both users and healthcare professionals about fentanyl. This stuff is so dangerous, police use hazmat suits when seizing it; just a few grains can kill you.

This drug is rapidly becoming one of the biggest opiate threats in North America. As people remain uninformed about its dangers, fentanyl continues to spread and claim more lives. As Dope Sick shares just one of these tragedies, the hope is that DJ and Justin’s story will open eyes and save lives.

Image Source: iStock

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