The new director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has revealed that his son almost died from taking cocaine laced with fentanyl.
Dr Robert Redfield Jr, who was named the head of the nation’s top public health agency in March, said the event is a big reason why the opioid epidemic is one of his top priorities.
‘For me, it’s personal. I almost lost one of my children from it,’ he said in a speech to National Association of County and City Health Officials.
Speaking at the annual conference in New Orleans on Thursday, Redfield outlined the CDC’s biggest concerns. The opioid epidemic was listed first, which he called: ‘the public health crisis of our time’.
Dr Robert Redfield Jr (pictured), the new director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, revealed in a speech on Thursday that his son almost died from taking cocaine laced with fentanyl
According to public health records viewed by the Associated Press, his son, a 37-year-old musician, was charged with drug possession in Maryland in 2016.
It is unclear if the charges were dropped or if he served any kind of sentence, or if this is around the time of the overdose.
Redfield declined to speak about his son further but, in a statement, he said: ‘It’s important for society to embrace and support families who are fighting to win the battle of addiction – because stigma is the enemy of public health.’
Dr Umair Shah, the head of Houston’s county health department, applauded the CDC director’s moment of candor.
‘It was definitely an intimate moment that grabbed the audience of public health professionals,’ said Shah, who just finished a term as president of the association.
According to preliminary numbers released by the CDC last week, about 70,000 American died from drug overdoses last year – a 10 percent increase from the previous year.
Overdose deaths are now the leading cause of death among young Americans, killing more in a year than were ever killed annually by HIV, gun violence or car crashes.
The majority involved opioids with growing numbers attributed to fentanyl, a man-made opioid 100 times more powerful than morphine.
WHY WOULD ANYONE MIX FENTANYL AND COCAINE?
Cocaine, a schedule II drug, is known as an ‘upper’, since it is a stimulant that makes users alert and energized.
Fentanyl, also schedule II, is known as a ‘downer’, since it is a powerful sedative that triggers a state of relaxation.
Combining the two is not new: according to the DEA the drugs are mixed to create a ‘speedballing’ effect, triggering a ‘rush’ of cocaine with the numbness of fentanyl.
‘The desired outcome is for the user to experience the “high” from the cocaine with the depressant (heroin or fentanyl) helping ease the otherwise sharp comedown after the effects of the cocaine subside,’ the DEA explained in its latest report.
However, some believe dealers may be lacing cocaine with fentanyl, not for its effect, but to capitalize on its addictive qualities, luring users back for more.
Others believe it may be something of an accident.
Either way, fentanyl is incredibly lethal and likely fatal for users who have not taken opioids before.
The drug is often sold in place of high-grade heroin – referred to as ‘China White’ – or added to drugs such as heroin and cocaine to amplify the high.
A CDC report released in March found that cocaine deaths were providing a huge uptick in overdose deaths in the US, with a 52.4 percent increase in 2016 from the year before.
Health officials believe the increase was due to a boom of cocaine being cut with fentanyl.
Some believe it’s not purposeful, while other say it’s a move carried out by cartel leaders to get more people addicted to opioids because fentanyl is highly addictive.
While cocaine is a stimulant, meant to energize users, fentanyl is a depressant, inducing feelings of euphoria and relaxation.
According to the 2017 National Drug Threat Assessment by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the two are mixed together to create a ‘speedballing’ effect.
The user will feel the ‘high’ from the cocaine and the fentanyl will ease the ‘sharp comedown’.
According to an analysis released in February, the growing opioid epidemic has cost the US more than $1trillion from 2001 through 2017.
Around the same time, the US Senate announced it has allotted $6billion for the opioid epidemic over a two-year period.
Last October, President Donald Trump declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency and the federal government is expected to spend a record $4.6 billion this year to fight the opioid crisis.
In March, the president unveiled a new anti-opioid abuse plan to fight the epidemic but it has gained little support from drug abuse and judicial experts due to the focus on tougher penalties for drug offences.
The majority of the plan calls for mandatory minimum offences for trafficking fentanyl and other opioids ‘that are lethal in trace amounts’.
The president also called for the death penalty for drug traffickers ‘when appropriate’.
Two other steps of the plan include a goal of cutting down on prescriptions by one-third over the next three years and boosting treatment, although the latter fails to mention details or how much funding treatment will cost.