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The Opioid Epidemic: A Story I Never Dreamed I Would Tell

The Opioid Epidemic
vigil for overdose

The Opioid Epidemic

The last moment I ever spent with my brother was at the coroner’s office. It is something I would never wish for anyone and his untimely death will forever change the way I live my life.

A few weeks ago, I received a direct message on Instagram that would forever change my life. Not the typical warm and fuzzy, or even hilariously funny message from a friend or follower. No, this was more like the modern-day dreaded ‘middle-of-the-night phone call’ that every parent fears. Only, it was about my younger brother.

It was a typical weekday at home, and as I went upstairs to put the baby down for a nap, I read the words that no ‘sissy’ should ever have to read about her younger sibling. It took no longer than a few seconds to articulate… “Hi Danielle. This is Scott’s roommate”. And I immediately knew. I didn’t have to read another word before collapsing to the ground in disbelief. I somehow managed to put the baby in his crib just before, but to be quite honest, it’s all a blur. Everything has been since I got the news.family affected by overdose siblings affected by overdosevigil for accidental overdose scott molinari

My brother died of an accidental overdose

My brother, Scott Anthony Molinari had eyes of the most brilliant blue. Just like the sky on the sunniest of days. And when he looked at you, it was as if he could see right into your soul. His manly and mysterious beard masked his playful side, only to those who didn’t know him. My kids thought he was the coolest, and holy cow, turns out they were right. He had an army of friends who loved him and a strikingly beautiful girlfriend. How could any of us go on knowing he did NOT mean to die? My intense sadness in an instance turned to some sort of visceral rage in the pit of my stomach.

Scott died of an accidental overdose. Scott is one of tens of thousands of Fentanyl related deaths in our country over the past year. For those of you who don’t know, Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid pain reliever 50 to 100 times more powerful than heroin. According to a National Vital Statistics System report recently published from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Fentanyl is now the drug most frequently involved in overdose deaths in the U.S.

The reason for this is simple. Most individuals using other drugs, whether experimentally or to feed an addiction) are blatantly unaware that this so-called arsenic is being used to lace drugs like pain pills and cocaine. It is a cheaper way to produce a similar high, but at 50 to 100 times more powerful than other opioids, it’s a silent killer. Much like heroin, there are places that may be able to help those who are suffering from addiction, if you know someone who is suffering from addiction and you wish to help, you might want to check out somewhere like https://www.therecoveryvillage.com/heroin-addiction/ for information and advice.

Anyone who knows me, knows that passiveness in the wake of tragedy is against my religion. When my brother died, a part of me died with him. Utterly empty, crushed and picking up the pieces, there’s still the relentless and resilient side of me who wants to do something about it. I’ve been working fast and furiously on gathering the information I need to use my platform for interaction, education and awareness when it comes to this topic.vigil on pier for scott molinari

What You Need To Know About The Opioid Epidemic

I had the privilege of interviewing San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan on my podcast, “The Mom Confidential”. Her motive? Passion. Her words? Actionable. Her focus? Our children. Here are some great takeaways every parent should know:

Five Things To Know About Opioids:

  1. 72,000 Americans died last year from overdoses from drugs, almost 50,000 were from opioids.
  2. Within five days of using opioids, most people will become addicted.
  3. Addictions become implanted at a really young age (just from going to the dentist or from post-operational prescriptions). It becomes part of the brain chemical composition and set people up for lifetime addictions.
  4. Most people’s pain level that would require something as strong as oxycodone only lasts one to two days
  5. No family is immune to mental health and addiction issues

Six Things To Do For Prevention And Help:

  1. Know the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Drug Help Line: 1-800 662 4357 (HELP).
  2. Go to your medicine cabinets – if you have leftover opiates, get rid of them. Every town has a safe disposal for opiates.
  3. Insist that your children’s schools have drug awareness programs. If there isn’t a program, ask your school why.
  4. Talk to your children. Talk to your teenagers. Talk to your brothers and sisters, friends, cousins and their cousins. Share these facts. It’s the only way.
  5. Also always tell your kids that if they need help, and if they’ve made a mistake, that you will be there to help them.
  6. Visit NOAC.ORG who are working with partners from the private and public sectors and pop culture to eliminate stigma and help end opioid misuse in America.

Sure, the drug epidemic has been around for decades. But this year, opioid related deaths have skyrocketed, making every major headline including the New York Times, USA Today and NBC News. Admittedly, I was ignorant to the seriousness of this problem. I had no idea how fatal the drugs that many use recreationally could be. And I’m not alone, because the minute I shared the news about my brother’s Fentanyl-related death, my inbox went crazy with thousands of messages… “My brother died of an overdose too”. “My mom is an addict…” “I lost my sister to addiction…” “My son is an addict….”danielle schaffer and scott molinari siblingsscott molinari died of an overdose

My Little Brother Did Not Want To Die

These days, I feel like I have one foot in my old world, and another foot kicking at the fact that I have to be in this new world of grief. Just like that, I lost my brother, the witness to my life, but simultaneously I gained a village of compassionate humans. From his village of friends, who also crave a piece of him, to my community of friends who understand both grief and addiction because they, too, have experienced the loss of someone near and dear to them. We have this one life, and I’m grateful for the endless efforts of family, friends and even complete strangers who are helping me plant seeds of healing. Humanity has a funny way of surprising us when we need it most.

My little brother did not want to die. In fact, he’s probably in the same state of shock that so many of us are still experiencing. I’ve chosen to tell this tragic story with hopes that others will better understand the implications of drugs. If you know someone who is dabbling, doing them recreationally, or enjoying their post-op pain meds a little too much…. STOP WHAT YOU’RE DOING AND HELP THEM. Do what you can to educate them. Tell them Scott’s story. I give you permission. It’s my duty, and I am just scratching the surface. I would give anything to hear him say “Sissy” just one more time. Don’t wait! Act now! Together, I know we can help save a life. Stay tuned for more conversations on this topic. I’d love to hear your perspective as well… please comment below.

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24 thoughts on “The Opioid Epidemic: A Story I Never Dreamed I Would Tell”

      • 4/22/12.It was a Sunday, and my twin brother Dennis passed away. He was 9min younger, and we came back from Church, and he died. I’m the one who turned him over to find blood,and spittle coming out of his mouth. I was cut in half the minute he passed away, leaving me alone for the first time. He had never been into taking pain meds, and had just recently done a 40 day fast, of no food only water. So he was completely cleaned out of everything, as he quit drinking and smoking 6months prior. Our close friend died earlier that week from cancer, and was on 100mg fentanyl patches for cancer patients only. My brother was staying with him when he was dieing, and found extra patches. He put one on to stop the pain of injuring himself a few years earlier, breaking his collar bone in 3 places. He drank away the pain, so after quitting drinking for 6months, decided to put a patch on to get out of pain, only to get no immediate relief, he added a 2nd patch. Not knowing they take at least an hour to enter in. So 200mg/hourly, is what he was dosed when it hit him. We had just spent that morning at church worshipping Jesus. We went back to our mutual friends place, and he left me without a goodbye. I now where part of his ashes in a urn necklace around my neck to feel somewhat whole again. I have lost the love of my life, my best friend, twin brother, and my oldest daughter’s soul mate, to this evil drug!

        • My heart aches and breaks reading this…. It was a mistake … he didn’t mean to die…. he didn’t.
          I am so sorry so very sorry…. I wish I can take all of us… all of us left broken, shattered to a retreat to learn, to talk, to try to help each other.
          Sibling loss is horrific… twin loss is too much to bear… my third child was a twin and the baby died half way through he pregnancy… my Roman is special.. he doesn’t know yet but one day I will tell him. HUGS to you… I am here and understand and please get this book PERMISSION TO MOURN…..

          • thank you Danielle. I will definitely look into that book. Thanks for your blog on this subject, as I’m sure you’ll reach and touch many, as you did me. Praying for your family

  1. I’m so sorry for your loss! I am so grateful that you wrote such a beautiful tribute and warning at the same time! I know you will save 1 life! I know that you will save many lives!

  2. Oh Danielle, I am so sorry for your loss. I have lots of pain killers lying around from my various surgeries and this is a great reminder to get rid of them. Sending love to you sweets.

  3. I am so truly sorry for the loss of your brother. I too lost my son Garrett on June 2, 2017 due to an accidental opioid overdose. My heart, my husbands heart, his older sisters heart will forever have a hole, a wound, that will never heal. We started a 5k walk/run to keep Garrett’s memory alive, and to raise money to assist someone in need of life saving treatment that does not have insurance or any financial means. It felt right, to have Garrett’s life and death represent hope for another addict. We too are from San Diego, and if I should be so bold to ask that you’d check out our FB page or IG acct to see if the walk is something you’d consider sharing. At the least, I would be honored to have pictures of your brother both on our memory table, and on trail markers. Again, I am so sorry for your loss and heartbreak.

  4. Praying for you and your family’s journey of healing.
    One year ago I buried my daddy, not to an overdose but to cirrohsis, though he had not drank in years. My husband is currently incarcerated due to his addiction and has accidentally overdosed multiple times (mixing opioids and benzodiazepines), two of which he almost didn’t make it. Addiction claims so many lives in so many ways. Thank you so much for bringing awareness to this crisis.

  5. I’m so sorry Danielle. This post is so sad yet so true. My brother, who also calls me sissy, is so addicted to Norco. I got him into re-hab twice but he doesn’t follow threw after. I am so afraid of what might happen to him. I pray for him and all that are addicted daily. Praying for you and that God will give you the peace that only He can give xo

  6. I know someone battling this addition it is my fear everyday that this will become my reality and I often times cry because although they are currently seeking help my fear is after help ends what will happen. I truly live in fear everyday for my loved ones life. I also want to scream at the Docotors who push these drugs knowing the danger and the addictive dependent risk it has on patients. Your brave yo share your story & I support anything anyone is doing for this epidemic. We need to save our loved ones, our youth, our future and educate those around us. Drug and alcohol Rehab should be free ❤️

  7. Danielle, I am so sorry for the loss of your brother. Prayers of comfort and healing. Is this the SCOTT, that grew up in NJ and parents are Anita and Scott Sr. ? Please let me know. I too lost my brother at age 45 he was in recovery with time and did not die from addiction but a instant massive heart attack, that happened 5 years ago so I feel your pain. Life changed forever that day and there is a missing piece of the puzzle in our family It is good you are telling your story and using the legacy of your brothers life to help others! God bless you and your family

  8. No actually, I know your Step Father Scott Sr. And I contacted him last night. Found out for sure. Gave my condolences. I know his son Scott meant everything to him. You do too. He spoke about you growing up with me years ago. I was so shocked and sad to see this news and confirm it. I’m so sorry again it’s very difficult. Having faith helps so much. Keep the beautiful memories close. You are doing a wonderful thing spreading awareness to others trying to make some good out of a really bad thing and situation. A life taken way too short because of these awful drugs but you will save others. Thank you for messaging me back. I appreciate it. God bless you and your whole family! ❤️🙏🏻✨

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