‘With fentanyl, you make a mistake you die’

Health

Cal Epstein's parents shared the story of his tragic death

BEAVERTON, Ore. (KOIN) — Jennifer and Jon Epstein joined an online forum Thursday night to share the story of their son Cal’s tragic death, one of several students in the Beaverton district who have died from fentanyl overdoses.

“We found him unresponsive, we started CPR, we called the paramedics, but it wasn’t enough,” they said. “The best we can tell he sought out some oxy from the street dealer on Snapchat.

Cal was a student at Sunset High School. He died 4 months ago after taking a pill laced with fentanyl.

“It used to be kids make mistakes and learn from them,” the Epsteins said. “With fentanyl you make a mistake, you die.”

They’re not alone. Authorities said deaths from fentanyl-laced pills are surging across the US and here in the tri-county area.

Sgt. Danny DiPietro with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office said 40% of the overdose deaths they’re seeing are people under the age of 25.

DiPietro joined the online forum and said teens might think what they’re buying from social media is OK because it may be a drug they or their parents have been prescribed. But law enforcement officials say if you buy pills on the street you can almost guarantee they’ve been laced with fentanyl, a drug so powerful it can kill.

“We’re trying to let families and kids know that whatever you see more likely than not it is going to be a fake pill that you buy,” DiPietro said. “So understand that you’re gambling every time you take one of those pills.”

He said just one grain of fentanyl is the difference between getting high or dropping dead.

The National Institute of Drug Abuse said fentanyl “is similar to morphine but is 50 to 100 times more potent.”

“What we are trying to tell everybody is if you do not get these pills from a physician or if you don’t get them from a licensee, assume that they are fake and that they have a lethal dose of fentanyl in them,” he said.

The Washington County Sheriff’s Office so far this year has recovered 26,000 fake pills. At this point a year ago they had recovered about 8000. Almost all the pills are fake, whereas 5 years ago they weren’t.

“They’re not oxycontin, they’re not Percocet, they’re not Xanax,” DiPietro said. “They are fake pills that have inconsistent amount of deadly fentanyl and you can’t trust any of them.”

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“Now the black market is super charged with social media,” DiPietro said. “Social media is great for a lot of things. It’s great for distributing drugs. It’s as easy as ordering a pizza.”

If you see drugs advertised on social media, call police or report it anonymously to Safe Oregon.

Free fentanyl test strips and Narcan are available through Multnomah County Harm Reduction.

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