Breaking News
More () »

Faces of Fentanyl: Families left behind share their thoughts on combating the crisis

All of the families who participated in the conversation don't believe their loved one knew fentanyl was in the drug they purchased.

TAMPA, Fla. — The overdose crisis is getting worse and the drug, fentanyl, is a big reason why. It's cheap, extremely addictive and 100 times stronger than morphine.

10 Tampa Bay hosted a discussion with a group of people who lost loved ones due to an overdose. None of them knew the drugs they bought were laced with fentanyl.

Mike and Kathy Fooshee lost their son, Nick, a few years ago to an overdose. They shared that after several attempts at recovery, Nick purchased heroin not knowing it was laced with fentanyl. 

Kathy found Nick in his bedroom with the needle still in his arm. The paramedics couldn't revive him. 

The Fooshees believe a combination of Nick's mental health struggles and the people he started to hang around at a young age led him down a path of addiction. Kathy said she feels like her son was murdered. Mike says they just ran out of time.


Chelle Sparrowhawk is in recovery herself. She says she's lost many friends and loved ones to fentanyl and she sees the effects of the crisis every day through the recovery center she runs, Sacred Space Recovery in St. Petersburg, Florida. After years without using drugs, Chelle relapsed and overdosed in February of this year. She said it started with stress and personal issues that led her to start drinking alcohol again. That quickly led her back to heroin and in the middle of the night she overdosed on what she later determined was fentanyl. Her boyfriend was able to revive her with Narcan and she says it's the only reason she's alive today.

Sandy and Shelby Cooper loss Ryan in 2021 at 22-years-old. Ryan is Sandy's son and Shelby's brother. The women believe there needs to be more resources to handle mental illness, trauma, and addiction altogether as they felt like they constantly had to pick which kind of help Ryan needed when it was really all connected. 

Sandy said once Nick turned 18, it became even harder to advocate for her son's recovery. He purchased a pill he thought was a Xanax on the dark web. It was laced with fentanyl and he died from an overdose.

Ellen Snelling lost her brother, Andy, years ago to carfentanil, which is a drug even stronger than fentanyl. She said his addiction started with pills when he hurt his back in the early 2000s. Once it became harder to get prescription pills, he turned to other drugs and accidentally took carfentanil which caused him to overdose. 

Ellen believes the accessibility to such a deadly poison is part of the problem.

Watch the video below of our conversation about the participants' stories and ideas about how to combat this crisis.

Whether you have fentanyl or another prescription that you don't want to linger in your medicine cabinet, there's an easy way to get rid of it this weekend. Saturday is "National Prescription Drug Take Back Day." The DEA collected more than 360 tons of unused prescriptions back in April. 

Agents say it's an easy way to keep them from ending up in the wrong hands. If you go to the DEA website, you can search by zip code and find a site in your neighborhood.

RELATED: Help is here: Local resources for those battling substance use disorders

Before You Leave, Check This Out