Early October brought a somber evening when parents thronged the school theater
for one hour of panel discussion on substance abuse and especially fentanyl. Mr.
Ed Ternan who lost a college son to an innocent-looking pill drove the message
home: as a parent, you have to be aware. The meeting was well-timed as Bill just
finished reading a book on the history of opium.
Its low cost and dosage have made fentanyl the killer, Mr. Ternan said. Unlike
plant-based opiods which depend on the the lengthy process of cultivation and
distillation of poppies, fentanyl is synthesized in labs from cheap raw materials.
As a result, it has flooded the illegal drug markets. Popular recreational drugs
including heroin, cocaine, and marijuana can be doctored with fentanyl to
increase their appeal to addicts. It is so potent, however, that a tiny extra
amount can lead to overdose and for drug-makers (who don't want to kill their
customers), it is just hard to control product quality. Out of one million pills
mass-produced, a 0.1 percent defect rate could kill 100 people.
Mr. Ternan said little on the source of the lethal agent except that it was
mainly from Mexico with raw materials from China. It sounded ironic that opium
has been banned in the atavistic east Asian state, known for its barbarous
totalitarianism, since 1950s and Bill grew up knowing nothing about
narcotics and meanwhile, the clever free West has kept inventing life-saving
anesthetics along with one crisis after another.
For many reasons people drug themselves. There is a culture here where people
don't seem scared or ashamed of taking a pill or a drink to feel good.
Stories such as happiness and success are flames bright enough to draw aspiring
devotees from all over and make them do whatever. Counter-examples such as
Sebastian Junger refusing depression drugs (because the depression was HIS) are
rare. Bill could not afford to be oblivious and felt good about being informed.
That night, "Do not accept any food or drink, e.g., at a party, if you are not
sure of its source." was the message he brought back to his son.
Under peer pressure, the teenager has already started experiments with energy
drinks such as Gatorade and caffeinated products such as Liquid IV, and G Fuel.
It was only a small relief that the kid was open about it. He wouldn't take
coffee, however, which Bill offered instead. The boy of course wanted to be with
his friends, Bill understood without being told. This was how the new generation
was to separate and trying to control would be futile and make things worse. All
he could do is to keep on good terms with his son, try to set an example, stay
alert, and hope to influence.