Advocates stop in Denver on the cross-country journey to share the dangers of illicit fentanyl

In Colorado, drug overdose deaths have been on a steady increase. In 2021, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) recorded 1,757 total drug overdose deaths among Colorado residents, a record high. Two-thirds of those deaths involved opioids.

In Denver, fentanyl is driving the surge in opioid deaths. In 2021, 49.8% of drug-related deaths in Denver involved fentanyl. In 2019, for comparison, that figure was 24.9%.

At the gathering Sunday, survivors of addiction like Michael Fiore also spoke. He shared his addiction story and the lessons he learned. Fiore said he hopes to spread awareness of fentanyl poisoning, adding that recovering addicts are vital in helping other addicts “get clean.”

“Us addicts are that wave, and us addicts are coming to save other addicts’ lives,” said Fiore. “The opposite of addiction is connections.”

Fiore said that message about connection is so important for addressing addiction.

“We get to see how addiction is the only disease that you cure by talking about it. So, when we find other addicts, and we’re able to speak on what we’re going through, we’re able to release it. Then what that allows is empathy we don’t need sympathy we’re not trying to fix each other,” Fiore explained. “We have the empathy for each other because we’ve been in that darkness, and we’ve survived that darkness so now, once we get in the light, it’s our duty to go into that darkness and bring someone else out. So that is why connections is the opposite of addiction.”

Andrea Thomas organized this local Fentanyl Prevention and Awareness Day at the park. She is no stranger to the dangers of fentanyl her daughter passed away from fentanyl poisoning. She is also the executive director ofVoices of Awarenessand the founder ofFacing Fentanyl.

“It’s affecting so many families,” Thomas said. “No family is immune.”

She and her team are asking the public to sign a petitionto send to President Joe Biden so that the president takes action to help stop illegal fentanyl from entering the United States.

For Duff, the importance of awareness is a why she travels to tell her daughter’s story.

“If you don’t spread the word and help get it out, you will feel my pain. And I pray that you never do,” Duff said. “If we can fight a war, we can fight this war. Our kids lives are depending on it. I’m not willing to gamble with another child’s life.”


Lindsey Ford is a multimedia journalist with Rocky Mountain PBS. You can reach her at lindseyford@rmpbs.org.

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