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‘That could never happen to me — until it happens’: C.O. teen speaks out after fentanyl overdose

(Update: Comments from teen, mother)

It took three vials of Narcan given by police for her to wake up

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- “When you’re doing it, it seems so harmless, and you’re like, ‘I’m fine. That could never happen to me’ -- until it happens.”

That’s what 17-year-old Gabby told NewsChannel 21 recently about becoming addicted to drugs -- and surviving an overdose.

She shared her story of overdosing on fentanyl in hopes of bringing awareness about the dangers of synthetic opioids.

Gabby lives with her boyfriend in Prineville. She said on Friday, Feb. 4, they smoked three pills in three hours while watching movies.

She called them “perks,” a short name for Percoset. She said she knew they were laced with fentanyl.

“Before, I had gotten the prescription ones, which supposedly don’t have (fentanyl) in them,” she said. “I had only used these ones a few times, and I wasn’t aware of how strong they were.”

She recalled that when her boyfriend fell asleep, she decided to smoke more on her own. Then she started feeling drowsy, a sign she was overdosing.

“My boyfriend said I made a weird noise, almost gurgling, like I was almost choking,” Gabby said.

That’s when her boyfriend’s parents called 911. 

Gabby’s mother, who will be referred to as Rebecca to protect her identity, said she’s grateful her daughter is alive.

“I think addiction makes people do and say things they never would otherwise,” she said.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency says fentanyl is about 100 times more potent than morphine and 50 times more potent than heroin.

Gabby said doctors told her they ran tests on the same kind of pills a few months ago and the levels of fentanyl found in them were about 0.2%.

“They just redid those tests a few weeks ago and now they’re up to 0.4%, so those were the ones I had gotten,” she said.

Rebecca said she had no idea what Gabby had overdosed on until a Prineville police officer identified them as fentanyl.

“I knew she knew the dangers of it, but it was very shocking to know she was purposefully smoking it,” she said.

She said she believes Gabby’s past trauma, coupled with the pandemic, played a role in her using drugs.

According to the Oregon Health Authority, the number of overdose-related hospital and urgent care visits statewide was higher last year than in 2020 and 2019.

The OHA said an average of five Oregonians die every week from opioid overdoses. 

Katie Plumb, chair of the Central Oregon Overdose Crisis Response Task Force, says all three counties in Central Oregon have reported a recent increase in overdoses.

“We see much more, in terms of numbers in Deschutes County,” Plumb said. “Crook County stands out when we look at those, in terms of rates.”

She said in 2020, there were 25 opioid-related emergency room visits in Crook County. She said none of those reports include fentanyl use, but the accuracy depends on when or whether the hospital ran toxicology tests.

In comparison, Plumb said Crook County saw 31 opioid-related ER visits in 2021. Three of them were confirmed as fentanyl-related.

“You do not have to have an addiction to overdose,” Plumb said.

She also said there is an alarming trend of more overdoses in people 17 and under.

“We’re seeing young people showing up in our emergency rooms and our urgent care centers with symptoms of overdose that we weren’t seeing prior to 2019,” Plumb said.

According to data from 2020, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health says Oregonians 12 and older are the least likely in the nation to find treatment for any kind of substance abuse.

The survey looked at alcohol, prescription opioids and illicit drugs like methamphetamine, cocaine and heroin. 

It shows 18 percent of teens and adults were unable to get treated in 2020, compared with about 9 percent in 2019.

Rebecca says a police officer administered Narcan to her daughter, which is what saved her life.

Gabby said she learned, “They gave me three vials of Narcan, and by the third one, I finally woke up.”

Narcan, also known as naloxone, comes in two FDA-approved forms: injectable and nasal spray.

It is available to anyone and is covered by most forms of insurance, including the Oregon Health Plan.

“I felt conflicted to share, because I don’t want anyone else, a 17-year-old girl or boy, to die from that so young,” Gabby said.


Actions for community partners:

  • Please immediately share harm reduction messaging with your clients [e.g., "We have heard about a possible increase in overdoses. [When using, please go slow and make sure you are around others. If you have access to Narcan, make sure everyone knows where it is and how to use it.”].
  • Ask clients if they have any information [e.g., “Have you seen an increase in overdoses? Any idea what might be causing it?”].
  • Do not add information to community messages that is not confirmed by county health officials.  Be careful to not give information that can give people who use drugs (both licit and illicit) a false sense of security, increasing risk of morbidity and mortality.

Prevention:

The Central Oregon Public Health Overdose Team is issuing a warning to people who use drugs to take additional precautions.  People who choose to use pills outside of a care plan developed with a health care provider, or who use other substances [e.g., heroin and/or methamphetamine] should take steps to reduce the risk of an overdose.  Steps you can take to reduce an overdose are:

  • Avoid any pills that are not prescribed by a medical provider.
  • Be extremely cautious when using more than one substance at the same time, it is highly likely there is fentanyl in most drugs purchased on the street or over the internet.
  • Don’t use alone – If you are going to use by yourself, call (800) 484-3731, NeverUseAlone.com. You will be asked for your first name, location, and the number you are calling from. An operator will stay on the line with you while you use. If you stop responding after using, the operator will notify emergency services of an "unresponsive person" at your location.
  • Carry Naloxone, also known as the nasal spray Narcan, the only medication that can reverse an opioid overdose.   You can obtain free Naloxone from most pharmacies throughout Central Oregon without a prescription.
  • Carry fentanyl test strips and test all newly purchased substances before first use.
  • Where can you obtain free test strips from harm reduction services?
Author Profile Photo

Rhea Panela

Rhea Panela is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Rhea here.

Comments

57 Comments

  1. Druggies get free stuff – “You can obtain free Naloxone from most pharmacies throughout Central Oregon without a prescription.” – which runs around $50 a dose that someone will pay for (taxpayers being forced to support recreational drug addiction) yet senior citizens get hosed for prescriptions to keep them alive. Interesting world we live in.

    1. – you were gifted the life you have, absolutely free, no cost to you – an absolute gift – seems reasonable to do something positive with that incredible gift – just a thought

      1. Not really, just looking for the elderly to get some payback as well, if the druggies get high-priced items free, why not those seniors who are having troubles make ends meet?

      2. Nope! just pissed we have to pay for someone else to get something free. While senior citizens get hosed at the pharmacies. I’d rather my taxes go to help someone who spent their lives contributing to society that a hoser who has only taken from society. If you do not agree with my assessment then perhaps you are one of the later.

        1. Earned and payed for. We pay into Social Security throughout our lives while being employed. Unlike SSI. Supplemental Security Income which IS handed out like a Welfare check. Again, Someguy is misinformed. Social Security is not an entitlement. It’s already OUR money being returned to us at the later stages of life.

      1. Someguy, so far throughout my working years I’ve personally contributed over $150,000 to Social Security, and in lieu of more pay my employer paid in as well. When it’s my time I’ll not be getting anything I’ve not paid for directly and indirectly.

        1. Someguy may not know that a would be employer is required to match our payment towards both Social Security and Medicare. Probably because they are misinformed by those he votes for.

      2. Which they likely worked for and paid into all their working lives. Unlike you who lives on handouts paid for by the same elderly or nearly elderly people.

        1. Those handout are paid for by each and every tax payer. But those who do not pay taxes benefit from those of us who do. Living off the dole of the taxpayers while refusing to work and pay taxes themselves. Then they vote for democrats so they can get a raise in their checks when democrats raise taxes and print money that didn’t previously exist to create more programs to keep them subservient to there leaders.

      3. Medicare they have to pay for that does not pay 100% of prescriptions. Unlike Medicaid, which does. Social Security is hardly enough to survive on without a supplemental income. Apparently you are misinformed.

    2. Imagine being so jealous of drug users that you complain they might get a free drug from the state that helps them get off their addiction.

      What a fragile little being you are. Grow up.

      1. Glad to see you are willing to support drug addicts and all the issues that come with them, let the county know where to send the bills for these “free” drugs so you can pay for them.

      2. How exactly does Naloxone help people get off their addiction? Although morbid, the fact is it allows them to continue in their addiction. Not using it= only one thing:(.

    3. It’s free from Deschutes County.

      And am I to assume you’d just let the die to “teach people a lesson”?
      Don’t answer that. We all know the answer.

      1. No, it is not “free from Deschutes county” as someone – taxpayers – will have to pony up the money to pay for it. As for them dying from their bad habits, no I do not wish that one them, and shame on you for projecting that on me.

  2. I think it’s great she’s going public with the dangers here.

    But I also think: she’s 17 & living with her drug addict boyfriend. Together, they do heavy, risky drugs. Imagine that kind of life. Moreover, she thought this was ‘harmless.’ Even a 17yo should know this is damaging, risky stuff. Not ‘harmless.’

    1. Her minimal knowledge and resulting overconfidence almost killed her. Sure, the opioid OD is something to learn from, but there are more lessons to be learned from her story than awareness of the dangers of street drugs.

      1. The ‘It could never happen to me’ statement indicates pre-knowledge of the dangers. Yet they choose to partake anyway. A statement virtually every addict thinks to themselves as they make their first choice to use elicit drugs. And before anyone asks how I know this to be true, I know because part of my job is to work with those in recovery. Intakes to and discharges from recovery centers. I spend a lot of time with people trying to recover their lives from the results of this type of decision making. I will go no further into the subject other than to say, if you haven’t lived that life, or understand the reasons people come to these decisions, you truly have no business commenting. Usually you are just judging those who find themselves in these situations.

  3. There is something very wrong with people that think “it seems harmless”. Look around you. Drugs are not new. There is nothing harmless about any of them.

  4. i am shocked she wasn’t aware it was so deadly, but knowing that is a huge revelation for all parents out there. talk to your kids about these drugs! they literally kill people daily. thank goodness this lady made it!

  5. Does anyone find it surprising that when a state decriminalized the hardest drugs available to people, that people OD on them, and we end up with roads that look like Hunnel Rd? There is enough fentanyl in this country to kill everyone in it, luring through the southern border, and all the self righteous people here talk about defending Ukraine’s border, as they care less about ours. Congress is a joke, so are progressives.

      1. People never OD on drugs like fentanyl like they do today. And to ignore it is ignorant. If people using these drugs bore the responsibility of it, and only them, that would be one thing. Who do you think pays for all the crap surrounding their overdoses Bob? Think a 17 year old is paying for ambulance and hospital bills? Think the parents are? Right… taxpayers are Bob.

    1. -How to make a story about a young woman’s overdose changed her perspective about, somehow Ukraine and Progressives- By Party of Common Sense Cancel
      They guy (oh most definitely a mid 50’s rural dude. Let’s be honest) with little self awareness and a strange predilection for whataboutisms

      Stellar

      1. That was a clear and concise point, where we going to see you, SEE YOU THERE. Down on protest corner trying to make yourself feel good? You should care that these dangerous drugs that flow through an unprotected border are in CO, and everywhere, and are killing kids. 17 year old using them and almost dying,. But you would rather attempt to insult me. Pretty weak attempt, but you can try again.

    2. It wasn’t the ‘state’ that decriminalized user amounts of drugs. It was the voters who voted to decriminalize them. But it was the ‘state’ that put it on the ballot and therefore giving the voters the opportunity to vote yes. A very poor decision on the voters part.

      1. It’s called the ballot measure process. Look it up. It requires signatures to get on the ballot, then voters approve or disapprove of it.

  6. This should not need to be said but if she stands a chance to stay clean, she needs to break up with her boyfriend. Any professional would say the same.

    1. You are correct! Any chance of a change needs to come by way of a full change. If any of her friends/relatives partake in elicit drugs, her best chance to recovery is to separate herself from those influences. This is also true of alcoholism. The best way to walk the road to recovery is to first clean the road of any distractions that may detour them from their path.

  7. LAREDO, Texas – U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers at eight South Texas ports of entry seized a significant amount of narcotics, unreported currency, weapons and uncovered numerous immigration violations during Fiscal Year 2021, most notably a 1,066 percent increase in fentanyl and a 98 percent increase in cocaine seized. Fiscal Year 2021 began October 1, 2020 and ended Sept. 30, 2021. I would bet, most of that started just after old Joe took office.

    Alright Old Joe, another of his many accomplishments to be proud of, a 1,066 percent in fentanyl, and he was able to accomplish this in less than a year. WoW, can you imagine what great, and wonderful things he will accomplish in four years?
    They probably seize 5-10% of what is coming across the border, so fentanyl is about as easy to get as a case of beer, maybe easier if you are under 21.

      1. Even Old Joe kind of babbled through the statement saying We’ve got to secure our borders. Though I doubt he meant it. And I further doubt he will do anything to secure our voters. He’s too busy giving the illegals plane rides to destination around our country.

      2. WAKE UP, THERE ARE MORE OF THEM NOW, how in the world can you not know that? Good grief. It is so disheartening, to know there are people like you who are really that ignorant.
        This poor child has been failed by adults. Yes you are correct, and it starts with the “adults” who felt Old Joe was a good idea. By the way there are a lot less “adults” that feel that way now, just saying. Ice cream anyone?

  8. Same sentiment as many on here, with the amount of fentanyl overdoses widely reported in the news these days I am blown away that this could be perceived as “harmless”. although she must not be alone because clearly and sadly there appears to be a market for it. Very brave to come forward to tell her story as it may very well help others, she is lucky she survived. I hope she does something great with her life now, not everyone gets a second chance.

    1. There has been a market for drugs in The United States for a very long time. If there weren’t a market drug smuggling would not exist. A vast majority of the fentanyl is shipped to Mexico from China.

  9. ‘That could never happen to me — until it happens’: C.O. teen speaks out after fentanyl overdose.
    —-
    Kind of like these intractable anti-Vaxxers, they talk a good game until then end up in the ICU and then their tune changes completely. I can’t tell you how many news segments have interviewed people who refused vaccination and regretted it. Yet I don’t expect Trumpers to put two-and-two together and see the folly in this ignorant line of thinking. Nothing matters – that is… until it does.

    1. That was a clear and concise point, where we going to see you, SEE YOU THERE. Down on protest corner trying to make yourself feel good? You should care that these dangerous drugs that flow through an unprotected border are in CO, and everywhere, and are killing kids. 17 year old using them and almost dying,. But you would rather attempt to insult me. Pretty weak attempt, but you can try again.

    2. Oh get over yourself already Lewlew. One has absolutely nothing to do with the other. Tell me. Why is it you can’t make a comment here without demoralizing those you disagree with? Why is it that, while being fully vaccinated, I contracted covid and still got very sick? I was an avid mask wearer and triple vaccinated. Just stop with you BS rhetoric already. And don’t come back with, “Well it was the vaccine that kept you out of the hospital” because not every unvaccinated person ended up in the hospital either. You effort at division only divides you.

  10. @CODude,
    “Failed by adults.”
    —-
    Kind of like those fuddy duddy Conservative parents of past and present who never talked to their children about the birds and the bees out of fear it would “pervert” their minds. Or like the ‘Never Say Gay’ anti-Gay bill being passed in Florida state as we speak or the current book bans who remove books from the shelves of school libraries because it isn’t clinically devoid of human nature and thus a ‘threat to our childrens’ minds.’ Yes, lots of failing parents out there, I agree.

    1. More attempts to divide? I see. The books they are trying to have removed for schools are age inappropriate. I suppose you support the re-gendering surgeries of a 10 year old as well.

  11. Learn the earth. Earth only. Not the virtues of a destroyed mind. Or control of another, place or thing. Simple life is better than watching kids die from drugs. SIMPLE CURE. Put seed in ground add water and shut up. Grow up.

  12. I wonder how her boyfriend obtained this quality stuff? Did anyone bother to ask him? Is he protected under Measure 110 after giving it to a minor?

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