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  • Larissa Martin

We Need To Pay More Attention To The Fentanyl Epidemic In Our Country

Cheryll Lynn was a daughter, sister, and aunt to those who loved her most. But unfortunately, on July 12, 2021, her family lost her to fentanyl. She took a Xanax, not knowing that it was pure fentanyl, and died rather quickly. That happens way too often with this drug.

She died alone in a hotel room at the age of 39. 

So, who was Cheryll Lynn, and how did she wind up like the millions of others? And how has it affected her family? She had dealt with mental health issues from a young age, beginning with anxiety. Then, once she was a teen, she was diagnosed with schizophrenia. 

The drug use started with pills to cope with the voices that caused intrusive thoughts, and the pills helped with that. 

Now, I know what you are thinking: Did she ever seek treatment?

The answer to this is both yes and no. Let me explain.

She wouldn’t seek help voluntarily. It was mainly court-ordered. Although she talked about going into treatment, she never followed through. She was clean for 44 days while in jail with $100. Shortly after she got out, everything changed forever. Their family dynamic was non-existent. Her sister Jennifer was the only family member checking on her and trying to help her. She had friends, Joe and Greg, who would check up on her, and they all wanted to help her however they could. Unfortunately, they all felt like they had failed her. Jennifer has also been grieving her sister alone. Her other sibling is mourning in his own way, away from her.

Situations like this happen to those dealing with addiction.

According to the DEA, 6 out of 10 fentanyl-laced fake prescription pills now contain a potentially lethal dose of fentanyl. I don’t know about you, but it’s beyond terrifying, especially for families with young kids or addicts who also deal with mental health issues like Cheryl Lynn.

Since her passing, her sister Jennifer has become a fierce advocate against fentanyl and the damage it can cause to other families like hers. No other family should have to experience and deal with such pain. But unfortunately, it happens every day. Overdose deaths rose from 2019 to 2021, with more than 106,000 deaths reported in 2021. Deaths involving synthetic opioids other than methadone (primarily fentanyl) are also increasing.

This is a horrifying and heartbreaking reality for many, but it doesn’t have to be. So, what can be done to address this significant issue in the United States? 

First, we must stop stigmatizing drug users, saying it is a choice rather than a disease. People who deal with this disease deserve to be treated with respect and help if and when they seek it. This could be the start to tackling the issue. The other aspect is the government’s continuing to monitor what is happening and making more treatment centers affordable. Making these treatments available to everyone and creating prevention programs and mental health services for those with mental health issues who are also prone to drug use is crucial. That way, when people want to attend these programs, they also have access to mental health care.

Do I think this is possible? Absolutely. But we need to stop looking at drugs as just drugs. Instead, we need to look at the people who abuse them as victims that need our help. I believe if all this were put in place, it would save so many lives.

Featured image via Karolina Grabowska on Pexels


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