Campus News · Community News · Feature

‘One line, one pill, one time’: Guest speakers warn of fentanyl use 

Jen Anima-Valdez


If you have yet to watch the documentary Dead on Arrival, it’s time that you do.  

This 21-minute-long documentary takes viewers through what the illicit opioid named fentanyl is and how it is taking a toll on the youth today. Not only does this documentary give incredible information about how this drug is being distributed and used, but it shows raw interviews with parents of those who have lost a child to this dangerous opioid. 

Director Dominic Tierno learned about a 14-year-old’s death who was from the director’s hometown. The teenager had died of a fentanyl overdose. Dead on Arrival Trailer

One of the parents interviewed in this documentary is Steve Filson, a retired police officer who lost both his daughter Jessica and her boyfriend Nicholas at the age of 29 over a fentanyl overdose. Jessica left behind her daughter, forcing Filson out of retirement to be able to support his granddaughter.  

Filson, along with other parents, are a part of the nonprofit organization that is Victims of Illicit Drugs –VOID. This organization was formed in California by a group of bereaved parents whose kids were killed by fentanyl. VOID’s main goal Filson says is education and awareness for everyone.  

“Our foundation gives us an audience, we’ll send our message and hopefully it will help save lives,” Filson said.  

VOID provides free services like the Dead on Arrival documentary in both English and Spanish and toolkits for teachers, parents and kids associated with the issue surrounding fentanyl. They also do presentations at schools and community organizations. On top of that, if one wishes to contact the foundation, there is a contact form available for inquiries. 

With these available resources, people can educate themselves and their kids about this drugs addictive powers. Fentanyl is 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine. All it takes for someone to overdose from fentanyl is two milligrams, equivalent to a few grams of salt or a grain of rice.  

Fentanyl arrived in the United States in 2014 and has since taken over. People these days are self-medicating to deal with depression, anxiety and even pain. Instead of getting prescribed medicine from a doctor, people are heading to social media where they can easily and cheaply buy drugs from dealers on the black market. Little do they know, most of these black market drugs are being laced with illicit fentanyl to get them addicted but that could lead to their death within seconds.  

Fetanyl, as the director, explains is much more powerful than morphine. Dead on Arrival Trailer

“Snapchat (for example) if you know how to use it, it’s simple to find the product for sale,” Filson said. “You can order up, and they’ll be delivered to your house like a pizza from Domino’s.” 

Filson says not only should social media these days be held accountable but so should those who sell these drugs even if their intention is not to kill anyone. Currently under the Communications Decency Act of 1996 in Section 230C, it provides immunity for social media platforms with respect to third party content. To put it simply, social media platforms cannot be held accountable for the content their users put out, even if it is illegal drugs that are killing people. Filson says this needs to change.  

“If you provide a drug to somebody and they die, you should suffer the consequence of going to prison,” Filson said. “But if there’s no consequence, the behavior is not going to change,” 

VOID has tried on multiple occasions to urge Snapchat to do something about how accessible their platform makes it to buy illegal drugs. They demanded to at least provide a way for parents to monitor what their underage kids do, but Snapchat disagrees and does not want to “violate” the rights of their clients.  

“We’re urging legislators to bring forth legislation to change the law that would require that or at least set some minimum standards that social media platforms need to follow to keep people safe,” Filson said.  

But what CAN parents do? 

Filson advises parents of minors to monitor their phones and to treat their technology as privileges. Parents should not feel guilty about asking their children to view the contents of their phones. 

“Kids have to be responsible and their use of social media; parents must be the parents that they’re supposed to be in order to keep their kids out of harm’s way,” Filson said.  

After the loss of his daughter, Filson began working again at a charter school in San Bernardino, California. Life after losing his daughter will never be easy, but at the center of his and his wife’s life now is their 6-year-old granddaughter. Filson shares his daughter’s experience not in vain but as an opportunity to save lives.  

“I’ve geared my life at this particular point towards VOID, education, awareness and trying to make my daughter’s legacy not of a mistake that she made, but of lives that she can potentially save through her experience,” Filson said.  

Filson believes abstinence from any street drug is the only way to keep today’s youth safe from this dangerous substance. Although he knows that this is not realistic, it is something we should work towards, and education is the first step.  

“Education and awareness, we think, is the most effective way right now and reducing the number of deaths,” Filson said. “Our message is knowledge is power.” 

To get more information about VOID or how you can contribute to the cause, please visit 


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