Dangers of fentanyl-laced drugs emphasized at Loudoun County community meeting

Families and community members packed a meeting in Loudoun County on Tuesday night to learn all they can about an issue that's become more and more prevalent: overdose deaths, particularly at the hands of pills laced with fentanyl.

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Overdose deaths in America rose more than 20% nationwide last year. One teenager in Montgomery County died of an accidental overdose in January, two teens in Prince William County died last month and 10 people in the District died in early spring.

Fatal drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death in Virginia, more than gun violence and car accidents. The Virginia Department of Health says illicit fentanyl is responsible for nearly 77% of those deaths.

Families who came to the community meeting say they just want information.

READ MORE: Suspect arrested in deadly fentanyl linked overdose of 14-year-old in Virginia

"It only takes one bad pill, and your child, or you as an adult could be dead," says parent Michele Donovan. "And you can’t tell if it’s laced with fentanyl, so I’m trying to get as educated as I can get."

In 2020, the Loudoun County Sheriff's Office along with the DEA seized $6.5 million worth of drugs, guns and cash connected to the Sinaloa cartel in Mexico. Sheriff Mike Chapman said there was enough fentanyl to kill every citizen of Loudoun County.

The sheriff’s office, DEA, a former Department of Homeland Security agent, a representative from the INOVA hospital system and the US Attorney for the area all spoke Tuesday night, trying to paint a picture about fentanyl and its dangers.

READ MORE: EXCLUSIVE: New drug in DC is as strong as fentanyl, DEA says

A key point made was to destigmatize drug use, to address some of the mental health challenges that lead to drug use and, sadly, overdose deaths when counterfeit pills laced with fentanyl leads to deaths.

Jennifer Breaux is a mother who lost her 25-year-old son last year to a fentanyl overdose. Her son struggled with substance abuse before he died. She, too, emphasized families having tough conversations. 

"We have to talk about this disease, and we have to talk about it candidly," said Breaux. "We must destigmatize in order to make the changes and save lives. I will always wonder if he stayed in rehab longer, would he still be here."


Substance abuse counselors say it's important to get rid of any old prescription painkillers in your house to stop addiction before it starts. Loudoun County distributed free prescription drug lock boxes at the meeting.