A 19-Year-Old College Student from New York Dies After Taking Just One Percocet—It Was Fentanyl!

A tragic incident has highlighted the severe dangers of counterfeit drugs, claiming the life of a promising young student. Paige Gibbons, a 19-year-old college freshman from Pittsford, New York, died from a fentanyl overdose after taking what she believed was a Percocet pill. This heart-wrenching event occurred in November 2022, shattering the lives of her family and friends.

Paige was attending Hobart and William Smith Colleges, where she aspired to become a doctor. Her future seemed bright and full of potential. However, one fateful decision changed everything. While at a friend’s house, Paige and her friend decided to take a pill they thought was Percocet. The parents of her friend were home at the time, and there was no indication of any immediate danger. Tragically, the pill was not Percocet but 100% fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is 50 times more potent than heroin and can be lethal in minute amounts.

David Gibbons, Paige’s father, recounted the devastating moment they learned of their daughter’s death. In an interview with the New York Office of Addiction Services and Supports (OASAS), he described the agonizing hours after the police officer knocked on their door with the news. “It was the loudest yell I’d heard in my life,” he said, recalling his wife’s reaction. The sudden loss of their daughter was incomprehensible and left them in profound grief.

Paige’s story is not just a cautionary tale but a call to action. Her parents, David and Kate Gibbons, have been vocal about the incident in hopes of preventing similar tragedies. They emphasized that Paige was not a habitual drug user, a fact corroborated by her friends. The incident underscores the insidious nature of counterfeit drugs, which can find their way into the hands of unsuspecting individuals with fatal consequences.

A 19-Year-Old College Student from New York Dies After Taking Just One Percocet—it Was Fentanyl

The Gibbons family is sharing their story as part of an educational initiative led by OASAS. Paige’s experience will be featured in a film titled “Addiction: The Next Step,” aimed at raising awareness about the dangers of fentanyl and the opioid crisis sweeping across the nation. The film seeks to educate young people and their families about the risks associated with non-prescription drugs and the pervasive threat of fentanyl contamination.

Fentanyl-related deaths have surged dramatically in recent years. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 6,300 New Yorkers died from fentanyl overdoses in 2023, part of a staggering 74,702 fatalities nationwide. The opioid’s extreme potency and its prevalence in counterfeit pills have made it a significant public health crisis.

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) reported a record seizure of 79.5 million fentanyl pills in 2023, marking an increase of over 20 million pills compared to the previous year. The DEA’s laboratory tests revealed that seven out of every ten seized pills contained a potentially lethal dose of fentanyl. This alarming statistic highlights the widespread distribution of counterfeit medications masquerading as legitimate prescription drugs.

Paige’s death also sheds light on a broader trend affecting young people. Many teenagers and college students seeking medications for various reasons, including studying aids like Adderall, are inadvertently exposed to fentanyl. Dr. Chinazo Cunningham, the coordinator of OASAS, noted that while fewer teens are abusing drugs overall, the rise in teen overdoses is primarily driven by the deadly impact of fentanyl.

“Fentanyl is finding its way into these pills, and that can be deadly,” Dr. Cunningham emphasized. The ease with which these counterfeit pills can be obtained online through social media and other platforms exacerbates the risk. Unsuspecting young people, trusting in the safety of a familiar medication, may unwittingly consume a fatal dose of fentanyl.

Paige’s parents are determined to ensure that their daughter’s death serves as a powerful warning. They hope that by sharing their story, they can prevent other families from experiencing similar heartbreak. “I want to shout it from the mountaintops and make sure that everyone knows: Expect that it will happen to you; expect that you will die if you try this,” Kate Gibbons said, stressing the indiscriminate nature of the opioid crisis.

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David Gibbons added, “It doesn’t discriminate. Socioeconomically, race, religion. You take a pill, and you have a potential of dying that night.” Their message is clear: no one is immune to the dangers of fentanyl, and awareness is crucial in combating this epidemic. Paige Gibbons’ tragic death is a stark reminder of the lethal risks associated with counterfeit drugs. Her story serves as a poignant call to action, urging increased vigilance, education, and preventive measures to safeguard young lives from the perils of fentanyl.

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