A Yuma teenager is speaking out after she overdosed and nearly died after snorting a mystery pill, that happened to be laced with fentanyl.
The 16-year-old thankfully woke up from her living nightmare, but so many others, do not. While she and her mom asked us to protect their identity, they hope sharing their story will help others wake up as well.
Fentanyl is a powerful pain killer; it provides a high similar to heroin - except its 50 times more potent.
"A very small amount of fentanyl can be deadly. It's not if it's going to happen, but when," Tim Hardy said, who is the Director of the Yuma County Juvenile Court.
For years the opioid epidemic has swept our nation, but now it has made its way to the Desert Southwest, becoming a bigger problem in the last year.
This highly addictive and deadly drug is impacting lives in our own backyard. One Yuma teen describes her experience.
"I had crushed it up and did it through my nose. I thought I had just fallen asleep, but I woke up with needles in my arm. They said my face was blue. My hands were locked, like this. I woke up, I had thrown up everywhere, all the fluids were like pressed out, everywhere. I couldn't walk. My legs weren't working."
They said marijuana can be a gateway drug and for this Yuma teen, it was. She went from smoking weed to snorting pills, in a matter of months. One of those pills, a light blue pill with the marking M30 - nearly killed her. It's better known on the street as Oxy, blues or perc and like so many, it was laced with fentanyl.
"I think it was three in the morning. I got woken up to a sheriff knocking at my door, telling me my daughter overdosed - really bad," the mother of the Yuma teen said.
The reality for her was almost too much to bear.
"When they told me they used Narcan, I was like, that's what they give people who overdose on heroin. They gave you Narcan, do you understand what just happened to you? I was in a state of shock. And to hear her say she was blue, and they pulled her off the bed, I just think about losing her - it's too much," she added.
The Yuma teen was on probation for marijuana prior to the overdose and said she actually chose pills because they are out of your system the fastest. This way, she had a chance of still passing her drug test, despite knowing the risk.
"It's just a bunch of chemicals compressed together, in pill form, that we're just taking to make us feel some kind of high."
She said the pills are easily accessible and has even seen them being handed out at school, like candy.
"It gives them such a euphoric feeling, nothing can compare. So they're willing to take that chance - even knowing that you could end up dead," Hardy said.
The majority of the fentanyl is coming from China in powder form and sold to the cartels, who have sophisticated labs that churn them out as pills. It's a cheaper, easier drug to get a more intense high.
"It's easy for kids to get and like you mentioned, they're killing their customer. So it's surprising to me, that people are still wanting to take that risk. I don't get it," the mother said.
The near-death encounter thankfully has changed her life. She now has a new group of friends and a new outlook on life.
"It completely turned my life around. I don't do any drugs. I went from straight F's to I'm now on the honor roll and student council now. I took advantage of that second chance," the Yuma teen said.
In hindsight, the only thing her mom now noticed is just how much her daughter slept. Advice from the experts - keep your teen active and be really involved.
"Your heart just breaks. You want to hold them accountable, but you also just want to get them help," Hardy added.
Everyone has their part, from the schools providing education, to probation officers holding teens accountable, to Border Patrol agents who are stopping the drugs from getting into the wrong hands. Hardy said we as a community have to intervene in an effort to save lives.
Her mom is thankful for the friend who called 911. Sometimes we see people panic and take off, only leaving their friend to die, because they're afraid of getting in trouble.
In both Arizona and California, there are laws protecting those who report these incidents so do not hesitate to call for help. For resources, click the links below: