By Grace Ramsey
This past November, just days after sharing Thanksgiving dinner with his family, Valentino Villar spent the night at a friend’s house and died.
According to Villar’s aunt Elizabeth Ponce, her nephew and his friend planned to take Xanax on the night of his death, and Villar took more than one. Unbeknownst to them, the pills were laced with Fentanyl. According to the Contra Costa County’s Coroners office, the autopsy revealed that officials found high amounts of Fentanyl in his system.
Villar’s family never saw him alive again. He was set to graduate at Del Valle Continuation High School just a month later.
Villar is only the latest casualty in the Fentanyl epidemic that has become evident in the Bay Area. In May, NBC reported 130 deaths in the area linked to the drug since 2015.
“It’s an epidemic that’s just across the board, taking the lives of our kids,” said Ponce. Villar’s aunt is only hoping her nephew’s death awakens others to the many dangers of drugs, especially Fentanyl.
Nationally, drug deaths from Fentanyl have exploded over the last three years, according to a New York Times article, from about 3,000 in 2013 to more than 20,000 as of 2016.
In April 2016, the legendary singer-songwriter Michael Jackson died from what the autopsy revealed as an accidental overdose of Fentanyl. The music world mourned again on Nov. 15, 2017 when popular rapper Lil Peep died from an overdose on Fentanyl and Xanax. He was 21.
The Villars’ are now taking part in the grieving that the world did not so long ago. On Nov. 27th, their son died from the same causes as these well-known musicians.
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is meant to control pain. It is incredibly potent and when used in the right way is extremely valuable to cancer patients. Comparatively, Fentanyl is 50 to 100 times more forceful than morphine.
When Fentanyl is used in the right way, it can be very helpful. However, due to its potency, on the streets it is highly addictive. The National Institute on Drug Abuse says the more potent a drug, the quicker a person will become addicted.