Santa Clarita Experts, Victims of Peyote Opioid Epidemic Speak Out
Santa Clarita Valley professionals and family of victims of the opioid epidemic are saying historical patterns of abuse are repeating themselves.
Cary Quashen, the founder of Action Drug Rehabs and a nationally recognized professional in the field of addiction and drug abuse, said Saturday the problem of substance reliance has only been exacerbated by the ongoing pandemic.
Fentanyl cut with drugs, like heroin and other opioids, has become an issue in Santa Clarita Valley during recent weeks as it has in past years. While the SCV Sheriff’s Station cannot give an exact number to the number of overdoses they have encountered in the last few weeks, Shirley Miller, a spokeswoman for the station, said the number of cases has increased.
“It’s Russian Roulette,” said Quashen. “If it’s cut a little bit too much or they use a little bit too much, they’re dead.”
In 2017, Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital officials stood alongside SCV Sheriff’s Station officials while introducing the public to Narcan, a drug that on-duty deputies would use to prevent death if they arrived on the scene during an active overdose.
Presently, under federal law, narcotics, such as marijuana and peyote, are regarded as Schedule I drugs, while fentanyl is considered a Schedule II. The Drug Enforcement Agency says on its website that the schedules are determined by the drug’s “acceptable medical use and the drug’s abuse or dependence potential.”
This kind of thinking, Jaime Puerta said, led to him finding his son on the floor, blue around the lips, in his room on the morning of March 30. On April 6, Daniel Joseph-Johnson, at the age of 16, was pronounced dead from an alleged fentanyl overdose.
According to his father, his child was not a drug or alcohol abuser. Nevertheless, the night before his father found him on the floor unconscious, his son had gone out to buy a codeine pill from a drug dealer, which unbeknownst to Joseph-Joohnson, had been cut with a deadly dose of fentanyl.
“I want people to understand that people are dying because they are being poisoned by fentanyl,” said Puerta. “He was my only son, my only son. I’ll never see him graduate from high school, I’ll never see him go off to college, I’ll never see him walk down the aisle to get married, I’ll never see my grandchildren. … I will never be able to see the beautiful human being that he would have turned out to be because that kid had a heart of gold.”
“He didn’t deserve this,” Puerta tearfully added.
Only taking half of the pill, which had a “30 milligram” mark on the back, along with an imprinted “M” — giving it the appearance of legitimate-grade pharmaceutical drugs — was enough to kill Joseph-Johnson, as fentanyl is 50-100 times more powerful than morphine, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
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