Isaac Solis, 45, has a warning for parents and others.
“It only takes one fake fentanyl pill to lose someone you love,” said Solis, whose son, Isaac Jr., died in 2019 after taking what he thought was a prescription Percocet. . “My son was a wonderful child and grew up in a loving family.”
The pill Isaac Jr., whom they called Bubba, bought on the street was actually a counterfeit pill containing fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that can kill in trace amounts and is often used as a cutting agent by drug traffickers.
It’s a phenomenon that has led to an increase in overdose deaths across the country, including in Milwaukee County.
In 2021, an all-time high of 607 drug overdose deaths were recorded, surpassing the previous record of 545 set last year, according to data provided by Karen Domagalski, chief medical examiner’s office operations manager.
Fentanyl alone or in combination with another drug was a factor in 79%, or 478, of these deaths. By comparison, heroin, another opioid, was responsible for 59 deaths last year.
In 2019, the year Bubba died, there were 244 fentanyl-related deaths in Milwaukee County. In 2015, there were 30.
Bubba, 25, loved fixing cars, worked at a dealership and had taken classes at Milwaukee Area Technical College, his father said. Bubba is also survived by his mother, Connie, and a sister, Ceana, a student at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Two University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee students died on campus last year after taking fake fentanyl-containing pills.
When his son died, Solis, a United Parcel Service driver, said he knew little about fentanyl. Since then, he has learned a lot, especially that his son’s story is not unique.
People have reached out to Solis to share stories of a loved one they lost to a fake fentanyl-containing pill.
Inspired by his son’s memory and determined to help others avoid his family’s grief, he launched “One Pill Kills,” a popular social media campaign to raise awareness about fentanyl.
Not to be confused with the US Drug Enforcement Administration’s One Pill Can Kill campaign, Solis uses TwitterFacebook, Snapchat and also just launched a website to share posts that read like verse in tragedy: stories of fentanyl-related deaths and massive counterfeit drug busts and lists of daily overdose deaths and other data from Milwaukee.
It also shares educational resources and sends warnings to elected officials and others that lives, including those of children, are at risk unless more is done.
“It can happen to you”
“I don’t want people to feel sorry for me for being affected by fentanyl. I want people to understand that it can happen to you,” Solis said.
Parents and others from across the country often comment on his social media posts and share the names of their loved ones and the type of fentanyl-contaminated pill that caused their deaths: “Half a fake percocet pill “, “Counterfeit Xanax”, “M-30 (counterfeit oxycodone). “
According to the Drug Enforcement Agency, four out of 10 counterfeit fentanyl-containing pills tested in its labs contained a potentially lethal dose of the drug. The agency also warns that drug rings are flooding the market with fake pills and marketing them as legitimate prescription drugs.
Before Solis launched his site, he reached out to another parent who is also leading an awareness effort on the fentanyl issue.
Virginia Krieger, who lives in Las Vegas, founded the Fentanyl Awareness Coalition and another group, Lost Voices of Fentanyl, after her daughter, Tiffany Leigh Robertson, died after taking a counterfeit pill containing fentanyl.
“I get calls on Facebook in the middle of the night from mothers who don’t know who else to call,” she said. “I’ve had parents who buried two or three kids and one who buried all five.”
Krieger said she and other supporters are pushing for changes to the way the fentanyl issue is addressed. She said despite years of rising deaths, officials are still missing the mark with prevention campaigns.
“It’s because the whole paradigm of this drug crisis is something we’ve never seen before,” she said. “We all took risks when we were young, but now they are dying.”
She said leaders need to focus on younger casual pill users who are unaware they might be taking a counterfeit substance.
“So far, everything has been geared toward one population: heavy opioid users,” Krieger said. “These days young people are walking around in blinders and not realizing that one pill can kill you.”
In hopes of reaching this population, Krieger and Solis plan to expand their awareness campaigns to billboards and other mediums, and into schools. They also called on elected officials and law enforcement officials to help spread their message.
“We need to act more and do it quickly because we are going to lose our next generation,” Solis said. “Things are not like before, where you can get addicted to drugs, relapse and recover. Now you can take half a pill and away you go.
Where you can get help
Addiction treatment services in the Milwaukee area are available at Gateway to Change, 10th Street Comprehensive Treatment Center, Rogers Behavioral Health, West Milwaukee Comprehensive Treatment Center, First Step Community Recovery Center, Meta House, West Allis Community Medical Services and other places.
You can also learn more about counterfeit pills at https://www.dea.gov/onepill.