In April, when Rhonda Brewer’s 31-year-old son Marshall Carlton “Carly” Simonds visited her at her childhood home in Islamorada, she looked him in the eye and knew he was consuming. Again.
âI took his face in my hands and said, ‘Don’t go back to South Carolina. I’ll take you to rehab. Let’s go, âshe recalls. âHe said, ‘I don’t want to lose my job.’ He returned to South Carolina and three weeks later he was gone.
Simonds overdosed on fentanyl on April 26, after battling his drug addiction for 12 years.
Brewer is not alone in her grief. Last month, national headlines told the story: “Overdose deaths hit record high as pandemic spreads,” read the headline of a Nov. 17 New York Times article.
“In the 12-month period that ended in April, more than 100,000 Americans died of overdoses,” the article said. âThis figure marks the first time the number of overdose deaths in the United States has exceeded 100,000 per year, more than the number of car accidents and gun deaths combined. â¦ The increase in deaths – the vast majority caused by synthetic opioids – has been fueled by the widespread use of fentanyl, a fast-acting drug that is 100 times more potent than morphine.
Brewer said the coroner in Greenwood County, South Carolina, where his son overdosed, told him Simonds’ lethal dose of fentanyl was 17 nanograms, the size of the tip of a grain of rice. .
Simonds had marked the drug before reporting for work at an electrical company on the morning of April 26. He went with his boss to a supply store and apologized for going to the bathroom, where he took his fix. He died instantly.
Although Simonds died in South Carolina, he struggled primarily with his addiction in the Florida Keys, Brewer told Keys Weekly in an interview. He became addicted to drugs during his freshman year at the University of Florida, after being supplied with cocaine by his dealer roommate, Brewer said.
âAnd he fell into the rabbit hole,â she said.
Before that, no one would have predicted that this would be Simonds’ fate. He graduated top of his class from Coral Shores High School and was the captain of the swim team. He read eagerly.
âIf you asked anyone on these islands what they remember my son the most, they would all tell you his smile and how caring he was,â Brewer said.
She helped her son in his battle while living in the Keys, sending him to rehab three times.
âHe spent three years sober in the Navy,â she said.
Monroe County Sheriff Rick Ramsay said the drug overdose death rate in the Florida Keys was not as high as in other parts of the country.
“But we must continue to be vigilant,” he said.
âAs a lawyer in the ’80s and’ 90s in the Keys, people who died of drugs were unknown. Now an overdose is just another day at the office. We use Narcan all the time, âRamsay said.
Narcan, the brand name for naloxone, is a nasal spray that can treat a narcotic overdose.
âWe are not as bad as other parts of the country. But do we have a problem? Yes, “he continued.” You’ve never seen methamphetamine, hardly ever seen heroin. It was marijuana, cocaine, and crack back then. Now it doesn’t. isn’t too big of a deal, stuff that we thought was hard drugs. Now we’re like, ‘Hey.’ “
Ramsay expressed concern that opioid users – who include fentanyl, heroin and oxycontin pills – see Narcan as a safety net and therefore feel more comfortable abusing it. drugs. He pointed out that Narcan is available over the counter in CVS and said drug addicts often consume in pairs. They make a deadly pact to use the drug of their choice one at a time. If one person looks like he’s overdosed, the other will revive them with Narcan.
âIt encourages people to use drugs at higher volumes,â Ramsay explained. âLast year we had a couple in a trailer with three children. In a garbage trailer. They had Narcan, and they had the same pact. But they were so high that one passed out while the other overdosed. The husband is dead.
Maureen Dunleavy is the Regional Vice President of the Guidance / Care Center, which has branches in Key West, Marathon and Key Largo. She said that in the past year nine people have died of overdoses of opioids, including fentanyl and heroin, in the Keys. That number would have been higher without Narcan, she said. The Orientation / Care Center distributes Narcan free of charge.
âIn 53 overdose cases in 2021, Narcan was used in 29 of these cases. And we had nine deaths. We are definitely having an impact by reducing lethal doses, âsaid Dunleavy.
Brewer struggled with her grief, she said. Therapy didn’t help. Some days she can do it without crying. She knows other mothers in the Keys who have opioid dependent children. Sometimes they ask him for advice.
âI’m still in a raw emotion,â she said. âMy gut reaction is, ‘God help you. There isn’t much you can do. You can lead a horse to the watering hole. It’s the same with an addict. It is up to them to accept the help.
If you or someone you love is struggling with drug addiction, help is available. Call the Orientation / Care Center at 305-434-7660, option # 8. The GCC has walk-in clinics in Key Largo, Marathon and Key West.