LONDON: A mother whose son died from a fentanyl overdose has called for a crackdown on the drug and more education on its dangers.
It comes after the National Crime Agency (NCA) revealed that the drug had been linked to 60 UK deaths in eight months.
Michelle Fraser, whose son Robert died shortly after he turned 18, said more needed to be done to tackle fentanyl dealers on the streets. She also called for more outreach work in schools to educate young people about the risks of the prescribed drug, which is up to 100 times more potent than heroin.
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On Tuesday, the NCA repeated its warning to be vigilant, recommending people read guidance issued by Public Health England so they could “protect themselves and their loved ones”.
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is sometimes prescribed as a painkiller for the terminally ill. Its analogue carfentanyl is 10,000 times stronger and is used as an elephant tranquilliser.
Fraser, from Kent, said her son may not even have taken the drug on the night he died, because reports showed just touching or inhaling it could cause death.
She said: “Knowledge is power. We need to educate ourselves and our children – what drugs are there now? In my generation in the 1980s, the worst we heard about was heroin but now we don’t know what is on the streets.
“I have a four-year-old son and think of his future, and with more knowledge his future could be protected.”
Robert was given the drug when he went to buy cannabis with friends. He was also handed a double-wrapped white paper packet and told to try the contents as it was similar to MDMA. He and his friends had violent reactions to the drug and they thought Robert had got rid of it, but a few days later he was found dead.
Fraser remembers getting a phone call at 9.24am while she was shopping in Primark. “I just collapsed to the floor and screamed,” she said.
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A toxicology report six weeks later revealed Robert had died from a fatal dose of fentanyl. His death came shortly after that of his grandmother.
Fraser said: “Robert was the kindest, gentlest person … He loved skateboarding and he was good at it. Not many have a bad word to say about my boy thankfully. Most of the comments I get is that he would cross the road to give you a hug. His phrase in life was: ‘A hug cures everything,’ and all I want to do now is hug him.”
Ian Cruxton, deputy director of the NCA, said in a statement released on Tuesday: “The threat of synthetic opioids is not new … However, since December 2016, we have seen a number of drug-related deaths linked to fentanyl and carfentanyl.
“The NCA has been working with partners, both in the UK and overseas, to take action against those drug dealers who are playing Russian roulette with the lives of their customers by mixing synthetic opioids with heroin and other class A drugs.”