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"One Pill Can Kill": The Dangers of Counterfeit Prescription Drugs

Sydney Gidman | News Editor

Jake Beddoe was a 25-year old former peace-corps member and worked as a travel consultant. In 2020 Jake moved home to Trumbull, CT from Boston to spend time with his family during quarantine. The night of May 26th, 2020, Jake took what he thought was a small dose of Xanax to ease his insomnia, but he never woke up. Jake was poisoned with fentanyl, a lethal drug that’s 50-100 times stronger than morphine. Since the Beddoe family has dedicated their time to raising awareness about counterfeit prescription drugs, and most recently partnered with The Connecticut Prevention Network’s public awareness campaign called “You Think You Know”.

The campaign aims to prevent deaths from counterfeit prescription drug use. The campaign reports that this year, “as of the second week of August 2021, there have been 878 confirmed overdose deaths...about 84% of these deaths involve fentanyl”. The stress of the pandemic has seemed to increase the overall rate of counterfeit prescription drug fatalities in Connecticut. According to the Connecticut Department of Public Health, there were 1,378 deaths in 2020 which is a 14.3% increase from 2019.

Drug-Induced Homicide seems to be the best description for the tragic way the Beddoe family lost Jake. He did not take too much Xanax⸺he took 1/4th of a “bar”, which is similar to a therapeutic dose a primary care provider would recommend. This is why the term “drug overdose” is simply illogical to use in this situation.

Jake was born with a mild heart defect, so when his family found him unresponsive in his bed that Wednesday morning, they assumed he died from a heart complication. When the autopsy report was released 6 weeks later, they were shocked to learn he died of fentanyl poisoning.

“Jake was being a productive member of society. He did all the right things, worked hard in college. Then he served in the peace corps. Then he got a legitimate job working, you know, doing the grind. The nine to five. It just angers me that these drug dealers are out there and that these drug manufacturers are in their basements and they're ordering these pill presses off of Amazon then concocting this poison and murdering people, innocent people.” Jakes Mom, Niki Beddoe, said.

On top of the collective trauma everyone has endured during the COVID-19 pandemic, those working in the travel industry had to cope with the stress of cancelations, upset clients, and threats of job loss. Another key element is mental health challenges and the fear that many men face in seeking professional treatment.

The Trumbell Prevention Projects project director, Melissa McGarry, spoke to the Trumbull Times and touched on the topic of mental health. She indicated that “one of the root causes behind the explosion in illicit prescription pill use has been the increase in mental health struggles. Young people can start to self-medicate in an effort to lessen their burdens, at the risk of losing their lives.”

Niki shared that she spoke to her son about getting help for his stress and sleep issues. “He was very stressed as so many of us were during that quarantine at the beginning of COVID and especially men are just are resistant to seeking therapy.”

She asked Jake, “Do you wanna talk to somebody? Do you wanna see if I can get you some, you know, medication from [...] our family physician to just to help you sleep, to unwind?”

Jake didn’t see a doctor to help with these challenges, instead, he obtained the pills from someone he knew and thought he could trust. Niki shares that Jake reached out to a 7-year long acquaintance that had grown to be the go-to for young people in the Bridgeport area looking for commonly used substances like Marijuana and Xanax.

“You just can't trust anybody. I mean, I'm sure Jake didn't give it a second thought. He's like, ‘oh it’s my buddy’. Yeah, he didn’t know where he was getting it from. You don't know where from, and then where his connection is getting it from, and so on and so on.”

The You Think You Know campaign uses the slogan “One Pill Can Kill” to emphasize the reality of how a presumed low dose of a substance can end up being another substance altogether. Counterfeit pills also look nearly identical to the real drug, so unassuming young people would not be able to identify that it’s illegitimate.

“It’s just the mentality of young people, they just think it's not gonna happen to me, but they really are playing Russian Roulette with these pills, they really are. This fentanyl is not just affecting people that are fighting addictions. It is the recreational casual drug user.”

Harm reduction seems to be key in this fight as college students are of the age group with the highest rate of prescription drug misuse and are therefore at the highest risk for counterfeit prescription drug fatalities. The National Institute on Drug Abuse states that nearly 15% of people ages 18 to 25 reported nonmedical use of prescription drugs in the past year.

The Beddoe family partnered with You Think You Know to raise awareness about the dangers of taking drugs without knowing where they come from. “If you have to do something then stick to alcohol that is FDA regulated. Or just make sure that the pill is coming from an actual pharmacy. If you're gonna get marijuana, go to a dispensary. Drive the extra drive, you know? Because it's just not safe.”


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