‘It’s not worth it’: Man who lost 2 friends in a week to suspected fentanyl overdoses offers advice, message of hope

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Fentanyl is the most common cause of fatal drug overdoses in the U.S. and Jacksonville is not immune.

A Jacksonville man who lost two close friends from suspected fentanyl overdoses last week shared insights on Wednesday into the lengths people will go to get high off the deadly drug, and offered a message of hope.

“I lost everything. And they lost their lives,” said the man we will refer to as James to protect his identity. “You may be suffering now, but there are so many good people in this world. There is still so many people willing and able to help.”

He said the victims purchased the drug from the same dealer.

James is a recovering drug and alcohol addict with contacts that can possibly help law enforcement track down the person supplying pure fentanyl to street dealers.

So this makes him a target.

It was in a hotel on Philips Highway where the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department confirmed it was called last week in reference to an unresponsive person. When rescuers arrived, they said the person was dead at the scene. James knew the deceased.

“I get a text from one of our mutual friends saying that, we’ll call her Dre, she had passed away from an overdose. They found her,” James said.

Then two days later he was told another friend was found overdosed in an abandoned building. James identified the second victim as a 22-year-old woman named Elizabeth.

He said he first met Elizabeth and Dre at a substance abuse rehab facility where they became close friends. James said he was getting better at controlling his addiction, but his friends were relapsing and had even overdosed in front of him. So, he said he remained their friend but kept his distance to prevent relapsing himself.

“I knew it was fentanyl because when they were with me, they were doing it and I didn’t know until one of them overdosed in front of me,” he said.

James did his best to hold back tears when he spoke to News4JAX because he misses his friends. And he blames the dealer for their deaths.

“You know, I’m no saint and I’ve done my fair share. But you’re knowingly giving young people, I mean we’re talking 29-years-old and 22-years-old. Still, babies who were barely starting life and they have families and people that love them. How dare you? Just to make a quick buck. You’re murdering young women and young men,” he said.

James said he will provide the DEA with whatever information they need to go after the dealer and the dealer’s supplier.

He said he has seen firsthand what people will do to get drugs.

“You do side hustles. You re-sell, you do whatever you can to get these drugs. I mean I couldn’t tell you everything I did to supply my alcohol addiction and that’s just alcohol,” he said.

James is now using his friends’ deaths to warn people to stay away from illegal drugs.

“It’s not worth it. As cliché, as it sounds, a good time doesn’t last a long time. It won’t be long before it turns into a necessity rather than a reward for yourself or a fun time,” he said.

To give you an idea of how popular fentanyl has become, despite its potential to kill, since the beginning of this year, the DEA has seized more than 39 million fentanyl pills and more than 3.2 tons of fentanyl powder nationwide. And according to the CDC, last year, more than 107,000 people died from a drug overdose. About 68% of those deaths involved synthetic opioids that include fentanyl.

If you or anyone you know is dealing with drug addiction there is help available. You can call 1-800-662-HELP (1-800-662-4357).

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