Couple who lost daughter to overdose warn against fentanyl

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(NewsNation) — Colleen and Brendan O’Brien watched their daughter Niamh struggle with addiction beginning when she was 14.

She achieved sobriety at 18 and maintained it for several years before fatally overdosing on fentanyl in 2021, according to her parents, who now want to warn others about the drug.

Niamh O’Brien died on Easter Sunday, April 4, 2021. She was 22 years old.

“The street supply of heroin used to be heroin,” Brendan O’Brien said. “It used to contain heroin. But the dealers have changed out the more expensive heroin for the cheaper fentanyl and controlling the dosage of fentanyl in the supply of drugs is almost impossible … It’s deadly.”

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 107,375 people in the U.S. died of drug overdoses in the 12-month period ending in January 2022.  Of those, about 67 percent involved synthetic opioids like fentanyl.

“There are sites where we live that will test your drugs for you. There are sites and raves and places like that that will test drugs, but at the end of the day, an addict is an addict,” Brendan O’Brien said. “And if they want to take a drug, they’ll take a drug and unfortunately, what’s in there at the moment doesn’t give these people another chance. Our point or one of our points is that a mistake made by a child at the age of 14 should not cost them their lives.”

Personal-use fentanyl test strips, which can be used to detect fentanyl in other substances in a matter of seconds, are available in several states. Information about where to purchase the strips can often be found on the individual state’s website.

According to the nonprofit program Next Distro, it’s a myth that the opioid overdose medication naloxone, widely known by the brand name Narcan, doesn’t work during a fentanyl overdose.

“Naloxone works on ALL types of opioids, no matter how strong,” the program’s website states. “You might need more doses if one doesn’t work after 2-3 minutes. Rescue breaths are one of the most important steps you can take while waiting for the person to breathe on their own.”

Anyone struggling with addiction can contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Hotline by calling 1-800-662-HELP (4357). The helpline is confidential and monitored 24 hours every day of the year and provides referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups and community-based organizations.

You can also visit the online treatment locator, or send your ZIP code via text message to 435748 (HELP4U) to find nearby services.

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