MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Always with a smile, and known as a kind soul, Collin Carlson had just turned 19, bought his own condo in Hollywood and was living the life of a young adult. That's until November 19 of 2020.
"It's been just over a year and, I don't know, I wake up every day realizing I'm not going to see my son again. So, every day I relive his death," his mom Lillie Carlson said.
This last year and a half has been painful for Collin's mom and his family.
Collin died of an overdose after taking fentanyl-laced Xanax that he bought on social media. His mom said the Xanax helped him sleep.
"He had six nanograms of fentanyl in his system, he had Xanax in his system. Two nanograms will kill a full-grown adult. It just stops your heartbeat, your lungs, it stops you from breathing," Lillie said.
The Carlson's aren't alone in their pain. In Florida, 5,806 people died from Fentanyl in 2020, according to FDLE. The most deaths happened in Broward with 642. In Miami-Dade the number was 334. Statewide, that's up a whopping 63 percent from the year before.
Dave Scharf is the Executive Director of Community programs at the Broward Sheriff's Office. He says what's happening in our neighborhoods with fentanyl is scary.
"What we're seeing on the streets of Broward County is fentanyl, or one of its many analogues, being laced into all the street drugs, from cocaine, methamphetamine, even to marijuana," Scharf said.
Scharf explains why fentanyl is mixed in with drugs in the first place.
"Typical cutting agents are quinine, baking soda, things that stretch a kilo of cocaine, perse, so that you can sell more of it on the street level. But when they lace it with fentanyl, they're expanding the product itself, but they're not compromising the high," he said.
The DEA calls it a crisis, killing more people last year than guns and auto accidents combined. Mass overdose incidents are up, too – that's where three or more people overdose at the same time. It's happened in seven US cities over the past few months, including Wilton Manors, leading to 58 overdoses and 29 deaths.
In Wilton Manors, six spring breakers were rushed to the hospital in March after exposure to fentanyl. They all survived. And in many of those cases, the DEA says the victims had no idea they were ingesting fentanyl.
"Thinking that it's the typical street drug that they've used for many years. Unfortunately, it's cut with a high level of very dangerous fentanyl analogue, and they end up overdosing and dying," Scharf said.
And in cases like Collin's, victims are buying what they think are common drugs off the black market. It's so prevalent that the DEA began a campaign "One pill can kill."
"The quality of the counterfeit drugs they're making and selling as oxycodone, OxyContin, Xanax, look exactly like the pharmaceutical grade of that particular drug. Hence people are ordering off the web, thinking they're getting the correct drug they asked for," Scharf said.
"Unless it happens to you, most people don't even know this is going on," warns Lillie.
She is determined that her son's death will not be in vain, that others will learn from their anguish.
"What do you want people to remember when they hear his name?" CBS4's Ted Scouten asked.
"To make good choices," Lillie responded.
The DEA released a helpful chart decoding the emoji drug codes on social media.
It's meant to educate parents and loved ones on what emojis are used on social media to advertise illicit drug sales. They also have a lot of information available about the extreme danger of fentanyl laced drugs.
If you are looking for help with addiction, here are some helpful links:
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