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My roommate’s overdose: The autopsy report

I got the autopsy report on my roommate’s overdose. The cause of death was fentanyl intoxication.

According to the toxicology report, his fentanly level was 18.2 ng/mL – that’s nanograms per mililiter. If you want to get an idea how much fentanyl that is, consider this: a person wearing a fentanyl patch for pain will have between 0.8 – 2.6 ng/mL in his system.Hand with pen drawing the chemical formula of fentanyl

Fentanyl is synthetic narcotic pain killer created in Belgium in the late 1950s. It was approved for use in the United States in 1972 and has been used as anesthesia during surgery and to treat chronic pain. It fast acting and has a short duration. Structurally, it is similar to the street drug China White.

It gets into the body via a skin patch, lozenge, pills, shots, a film that dissolves in your mouth, nasal spray, or by IV (intravenous). On a weight-for-weight basis, fentanyl is 80 – 100 times stronger than morphine. It is so potent that it is often measured in nanograms.

Since Patrick died, I have been thinking a lot about the person who sold it to him, the person who cut the cocaine he injected with fentanly and the person who made the fentanyl. I have dreams of being able to take these people back in time and let them relive Patrick’s death – from finding him on the floor in my spare bedroom, to the memorial service on the beach and the funeral, where his friends waited three hours in line to give their condolences to Patrick’s family.

I know it was Patrick who purchased that fatal dose and injected it. Still I want to find these people, look them in the eyes, grab them by the shoulders, shake them and yell “SEE WHAT YOU’VE DONE!!! SEE WHAT YOU’VE DONE!!!”

I wonder, do the dealers who sell this stuff know what’s in it? Do the people cutting the heroin and cocaine even know they are using fentanyl? Do the workers in the illegal labs know what they are creating? Do they have families? Do they have pets? Do they have a conscience?

Are these fentanyl labs like the meth labs in Breaking Bad?  How come we never hear about illegal fentanyl labs being busted? Are these labs in China? Is it cut before it comes into the U.S.? Where the hell is this stuff coming from?

Today in my hometown a dealer goes on trial for selling fentanyl-laced heroin that killed an addict. I know he’s innocent until proven guilty, but I want to go to the trial just to see his face. I want to see for myself if he expresses  a nanogram of sympathy for the family of the addict that his product killed.

I want to know how much money he made for selling his fentanyl-laced product. What did he buy with the money? A nice car? A watch? A big-screen TV?

I want to scream, “Was it worth it? Was it really worth it?”




My roommate’s overdose: The autopsy report

Christine Stapleton

Christine Stapleton has been a journalist for 35 years. She is now an investigative reporter for The Palm Beach Post. In 2006, began writing a blog for PsychCentral called Depression on My Mind. Her latest blog, Addiction Matters, draws on her 19 years of sobriety and her coverage of the drug treatment industry in South Florida.

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APA Reference
Stapleton, C. (2016). My roommate’s overdose: The autopsy report. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 22, 2019, from


Last updated: 1 Aug 2016
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 1 Aug 2016
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