HAUPPAUGE, N.Y. - Tuesday is National Fentanyl Awareness Day, a day to remember victims of fentanyl poisoning, and to educate people about the threat that's killing Americans in staggering numbers.
On Long Island, grieving loved ones of victims gathered with a message.
"The rocks before you represent our children, our friends, our coworkers. our neighbors," Steven Chassman, executive director of the Long Island Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence said.
The rocks are a representation of lives lost to fentanyl: 175 per day in our country. That's one death every eight and a half minutes.
On Fentanyl Awareness Day, sadness spilled over outside the Suffolk legislature. The DEA calls it the greatest threat to Americans today.
"I just recently lost my son. April 4th of this year. He was 28 years old," said Joanne Pacheco.
Pacheco had a message to parents.
"Don't be ashamed. Help them. Help them. They're people. Just open up their eyes. They have to admit they have an addiction," Pacheco said.
Fentanyl doesn't only kill those addicted to opioids. It's also hidden by traffickers in so-called recreational and study drugs. One pill can kill.
"Counterfeit drugs like Xanax, Adderall, Ritalin may look harmless, but often contain lethal doses of fentanyl," Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn said.
Suffolk Police say most of the 400 overdose deaths in the county last year involved fentanyl, which is 50 times more potent than heroin, odorless, tasteless and lethal.
"An amount equal to two grains of salt can cause an overdose," Suffolk County Deputy Police Commissioner Anthony Carter said.
It was a day of sadness, but also one of hope that talking about the scourge can save lives, along with spreading knowledge that recovery services are available.
"Too many people are hiding behind closed doors and not acknowledging that our communities are not like Mayberry," said Dorothy Knowlton Johnson.
Parents are urged to open tough conversations with kids before it's too late.
The DEA says fentanyl kills more Americans under 45 than car accidents and than cancer. People of all ages must know any illicit drug bought on the internet or the street can kill you.
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