There are so many movies that reference the crack era and tell the stories of a time that brings shame to our communities and country as a whole. Drug addiction doesn’t have a face or class, so I am not certain why the stigmas exist, we saw many celebrities over the years struggle with addiction, one beloved person in our community is Whitney Houston, who was a known cocaine user and whose daughter (Bobbi Kristina 2015) later died from a cocaine-related substance,” sedative, anti-anxiety medications and morphine in her system, then later her brother (Bobby Brown Jr, 2021) died from the cocaine/fentanyl/alcohol overdose.
Let’s define a bit of terminology before we go into one-side of who this drug is impacting:
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is up to 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine. There are two types of fentanyl, pharmaceutical and illicitly manufactured, and both are considered synthetic opioids. Pharma fentanyl is prescribed by doctors to treat severe pain, especially after surgery and for advanced-stage cancer -but, most recent cases of fentanyl-related overdoses are linked to illicitly manufactured fentanyl, which is distributed through illegal drug markets for its heroin-like effect. It is often added to other drugs because of its extreme potency, which makes drugs cheaper, more powerful, more addictive, and more dangerous.
It is commonly mixed with drugs like heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine and made into pills that are made to resemble other prescription opioids. Fentanyl-laced drugs are extremely dangerous, and many people may be unaware that their drugs are laced with fentanyl.
The majority of fentanyl is mass-produced in Mexico using chemicals from China before being pressed into pills or mixed with other counterfeit pills made to look like Xanax. Adderall or oxycodone. Oftentimes, it is believed that the counterfeit drugs are then sold unaware to buyers.
We saw so many deaths related to fentanyl over the past few years, Bobby Brown who was married to Whitney Houston and was the father to both Children who died possible fentanyl-related deaths, sounded the alarm on fentanyl in a conversation he had on “ Red Table Talk” with Jada Pinkett Smith, Willow Smith, and Adrienne Banfield-Norris.
In April 2016, Prince died at his home in Chanhassen, Minnesota, following an accidental fentanyl overdose. The music icon was 57. During a 2018 press conference, a prosecutor investigating Prince’s death said that the superstar “thought he was taking Vicodin” and wasn’t aware of the fact that the drugs he used for chronic pain management had been laced with fentanyl.
The Wire” actor Michael K. Williams died of an accidental drug overdose in his Brooklyn apartment in September 2021. He was 54. The five-time Emmy nominee, who struggled with drug addiction during his pre-fame days, had fentanyl, heroin and cocaine in his system. “Addiction doesn’t go away. It’s an everyday struggle for me, but I’m fighting,” he’d told The New York Times in 2017.
Digital Underground rapper Shock G died of an accidental overdose in a Tampa, Florida, hotel room in April 2021. He was 57. A toxicology report later determined the “Humpty Dance” chart-topper had fentanyl, ethanol and methamphetamine in his system.
In September 2021, comedian Fuquan Johnson died at a Los Angeles house party of a suspected drug overdose. TMZ‘s sources said they believe he and two friends — comic Rico Angeli and Natalie Williamson — died after ingesting “cocaine laced with fentanyl,” though a toxicology report has yet to confirm those suspicions. Comedian Kate Quigley was hospitalized but ultimately survived the tragic incident.
Today, stigma means labeling, stereotyping and discrimination. One example is using disparaging or judgmental terms to refer to addiction, people with substance use disorder, or treatments for the disease. The point of pointing out celebrities is to remind people that anyone can struggle with substance use. We sometimes position celebrities lives as being without issues, because they have wealth and fame, but that creates problems on one end of the spectrum, while poverty and all things inbetween created problems on the other end. The reality is all kinds of people can fall on the proverbial spectrum.
Not only do we need to end the stigmas, we must open our hearts and support our people through their struggles.