Florida mother warns of drug addiction during the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic
By Ramon Tomey // Sep 12, 2021

Fernandina Beach, Florida resident Michelle Holbrook manages to show a bright smile despite the hardships she has faced in life. She suffers from a rare condition that causes tumors to form on her nerves, which require surgery to remove. But even more painful than her neurofibromatosis is the loss of her son Chandler Cook, who died of an accidental drug overdose.


Holbrook spoke to The Epoch Times about Chandler's death. The 28-year-old who stood 6 feet, 5 inches tall died in April 2021 because of an overdose. She also shared how he started his opioid addition. Cook was prescribed OxyContin after he underwent shoulder surgery during his teen years. He became subsequently addicted to it alongside heroin and other drugs.

Cook managed to turn his life around in early 2020, following a stay at a drug rehabilitation facility which turned out right. He managed to get a job at a restaurant, which made Holbrook overjoyed as Cook was finally clean from drugs. "Before the pandemic, he was going to work every day [and] learning to bartend at the restaurant he worked at," she said.

However, the COVID-19 pandemic hit and Cook lost his job due to the lockdowns put in place. According to Holbrook, her son had "some level of depression" before the pandemic and had been living alone in his apartment at that time. The lack of daily structure and steady income only made things worse. Soon enough, Cook went back to heroin to "numb the feeling of being isolated."

On the day her son overdosed, Holbrook remembered getting a text from Chandler's friend telling her that something was wrong. She and her husband drove to Cook's apartment in Jacksonville, but they were too late.

Holbrook remarked that the day she learned of her son's overdose was "the hardest day" she ever had in her life. "I remember that feeling inside of me, just wanting to … run as fast as I can [and] get away – that it was a dream," she said. (Related: Death toll from drug overdose soars during pandemic.)

Holbrook warns of the dangers of fentanyl

According to Holbrook, her son was unaware there was fentanyl in the drugs he purchased. Unbeknownst to Cook, the street heroin he bought contained the potent synthetic opioid. It is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine – just two or three milligrams of fentanyl is enough to kill a person.

She said: "I don't think he knew that. In the heat of the moment, he did [the heroin] not knowing what he had picked up off the street – and it killed him." Holbrook added that an autopsy found that Chandler had fentanyl, cocaine and heroin in his system.

Because of what happened to her son, Holbrook wants to warn others of the dangers of fentanyl and the overdose epidemic it has triggered. She said: "They're placing fentanyl in these drugs nowadays, and it will kill you. [It] takes a very tiny, tiny amount of fentanyl in your system to kill you immediately."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), legal fentanyl in the form of lozenges or patches put on the skin is used mainly for treating severe pain. It noted that fentanyl approved for legitimate purposes "can be diverted for misuse and abuse."

However, the public health agency remarked that most untoward incidents in the U.S. involving the opioid are often linked to illicit fentanyl sold in the black market. The CDC mentioned that it is "often mixed with heroin and/or cocaine as a combination product – with our without the user's knowledge – to increase its euphoric effects."

A March 2019 Customs and Border Protection report said fentanyl entering the U.S. mainly passes through the southwest border from Mexico. However, it noted that this kind of fentanyl only has a low purity level of seven percent. Fentanyl from China sent through express consignment and international mail facilities has a higher purity level of 90 percent – and a higher lethality rate in turn.

Holbrook warned of an "addiction pandemic" if the government does not put sufficient resources to prevent addiction and help those suffering from it. "It's going to be the death of our young people," she said. (Related: More people died from fentanyl overdose than coronavirus in San Francisco last year.)

She also criticized the lack of support for those suffering from mental health issues and addiction during the pandemic. Holbrook said virtual consultations are unhelpful as most people who suffer from these problems often have no access to computers or the internet. She denounced the fact that liquor stores were deemed essential while Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous meetings were not.

Visit Addiction.news to read more stories about drug addiction during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sources include:



CBP.gov [PDF]

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