The Deadly Cost of Fentanyl: Parents share their grief

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -  It is the deadliest drug in the United States.

And even a small, unexpected dose of the painkiller Fentanyl – which drug dealers are increasingly blending into other drugs from heroin to cocaine to pills – can prove fatal.

Two milligrams of the drug, a few specks, is considered a lethal dose.

This isn't something happening in other parts of the country...it's right here in your back yard.

The Barton Family

Hampton Cove parents Lee and Sally Barton couldn't stop their son from making a deal with that devil.

"Literally the next high, literally the next high, could kill them,” Lee Barton says.

Jay Barton died July 5, 2016. He was 32.

“If I were going to tell any parent, or any addict anything,” Sally Barton says. “I would say … ‘Life is full of choices. Think before you do something. Think.'”

Jay's death shattered his Mom and Dad.

“There’s the additional guilt when you lose a child to drugs because it’s always that, what could I have done?” Lee Barton says. “What should I have done?”

“The guilt and the shame are going to stay with us forever,” Sally Barton says. “But the fact that we're learning about it and going to help other people, helps my guilt, helps my shame.”

They're left with ashes. It’s the deadly cost of Fentanyl.

The same year Jay died, Fentanyl caused 18,000 fatal overdoses, according to government figures.

The Miller Family

“I lost a daughter in this horrible drug epidemic, December 8, 2017.”

Valarie Miller sits surrounded by pictures of her daughter, Kailey, memories of a life cut short.

“She was 22 years old,” Miller says.

“The day I did get the phone call was horrible,” she recalls.

The call was from a friend of Kailey’s.

“So he called me, and I right away, I just dropped.”

Valarie Miller says she didn't want to see signs of a problem.

“One of my indications was my teaspoons would become missing and I didn't know. But, that’s a sign of them using,” she says. “Then, little pieces of foil would be ripped off of my foil packages.”

Kailey's addiction grew and the costs grew higher.

“It did bother Kailey that that one time she got Kelsey hooked on drugs.”

Kelsey, Kailey's younger sister, Valarie’s younger daughter.

"She always swore she would never use drugs,” Miller says. “She said I don`t want to be like Kailey....Kailey got Kelsey to try heroin one time. And that’s all it took.”

Kelsey's decision landed her in the Madison County Jail, where she's vowed to save her own life.

“I tell her all the time,” Valarie says, “’You don’t want to be a bag of ashes.’”

Valarie Miller said she tried everything she knew to do: taking away the car, computer, cell phone. Even locking her in her room to keep her from running away. It didn’t work.

Kelsey still has a chance; it's too late for Kailey.

"She wanted to get clean, stay clean, but the demon was too powerful,” Valarie Miller says.

The Rose Family

New life was born out of an addiction for Jennifer Rose's daughter Elise.

“She ended up finding out she was pregnant, she was still in addiction at that time, and when she found out she made the choice to not use after that."

Jennifer says her grandson, Sage, saved Elise.

“I never thought Elise would end up in recovery,” she says. “I would say that probably a month before she found out she was pregnant, I was telling my friends and my family that I didn't think I was going to have her much longer.”

Fentanyl nearly killed Elise, but now she has more to live for.

As Jennifer looks back at her daughter's struggle, she sees lessons for herself, and maybe for other parents. She points to the dangers of enabling.

“It got to a point where you have to let them go, because if not you’re going to love them to death,” she says. “I mean you’re going to love them to death. You're going to kill your children. Love your children to death, I was actually loving my daughter to death.”

For an addict, it can be the loneliest place in the world.

"You can love them, but you can't make them choose recovery,” Jennifer Rose says.

Valarie Miller knows it can be just as lonely for their parents.

“You don't want to do this to your parents, you don't want to do this to your parents."

Find Help

WHNT News 19 connected with these families through Not One More Alabama. This is a group whose purpose is to help loved ones of those with addiction struggles through the treatment process, through their own experiences.

If you, or someone you love, is struggling with drug addiction, call Not One More Alabama at (256)384-5055.

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