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Author Stephen Rocco Calls Attention to the Fentanyl Epidemic

  I would like to thank Jim Mitchell and The Advocate Newspapers for the recent article about my novels. I hope they are worthy of everyone’s attention. I wish to emphasize that the goal of my second novel – The Girl Who Woke Up In The Morgue – is to call attention to the newest danger of opiates specifically that of fentanyl.

  My novel occurs in the mythical town of Springdale at the turn of this century. It parallels the emergence of a new class of potent drugs – synthetic opioids – that were easily mass produced in laboratories; marketed by Big Pharma as “safe and nonaddictive drugs,” OxyContin, Dilaudid and Vicodin soon became household names. America soon learned that these pills in their medicine cabinets were deadly – especially seductive for the young people. Springdale represents any community in America – urban or rural, affluent or working class – who have been touched by this disease.

  My novel hopefully puts a face on those crusaders who identified and fought those responsible for the “pill mill” epidemic. As a result, abuse of prescription opioids is no longer an issue. Anyone trying to get something stronger than aspirin after knee surgery today realizes this very quickly.

  But the opiate scourge is worse – much worse. As the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) agent Grey predicted in my novel “the snake has changed its shape.” He refers to the fact that the opioid issue went underground with the new restrictions in recent years. A black market has now emerged with makeshift labs producing the favorite opioid today, fentanyl. Designed as a prescription for those in severe pain – such as end-stage cancer patients – it can be one hundred times stronger that morphine. Greedy drug dealers have learned how to create it in this country, leading to a dangerous lottery for users. Various amounts of fentanyl may be found in heroin, cocaine and fake pills that look like fentanyl that look like benign pink pills.

  In my novel I add a postscript I thought I would share; a public safety alert from the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) dated September 27, 2021. “The DEA warns the American public of the alarming increase and availability of fake prescription pills containing fentanyl and methamphetamine. International and domestic criminal drug networks are mass producing fake pills and marketing them as legitimate prescription pills. More than 9.5 million counterfeits were seized so far this year which is more that the last two years combined. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), more than 93,000 Americans died of drug overdoses in 2020. Fentanyl is the primary driver of the of this alarming increase.”

  I write a poem titled, A Funeral Director’s Wish, at the conclusion of my novel – something I never attempted in my life. I wrote it not for the young person in a casket but for the survivors who might learn from another’s mistake. As the title of this article declares, fentanyl does not give many second chances. Good young people might succumb to adventure or peer pressure with deadly results.

A Funeral Director’s Wish

I wish you could see

What your late brethren have taught me

No decisions are left

Shame and regret no more

I wish you could listen

To the guilt and anguish

That is your legacy

An eternal weight on those left behind

I wish you could hear

The echoes of your death

So much to offer

So much to love

I wish you were me

Learning lessons from fateful decisions

Of choosing to embrace a high

Left the world denied your talents

(Editor’s Note: Stephen Rocco is a retired funeral director and author of two novels, “The Girl Who Woke Up In The Morgue” and “The Ecstasy of Pupusas: Filled with Love.” The books are available on Amazon and Barnsandnoble.com.)

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