Media Awareness

The Youngest Victims of the Fentanyl Crisis

Toddlers are dying after accidentally ingesting the potent synthetic opioid their parents use; a 2-year-old ‘ate mom’s pills’

Sharon Murfin holds the blanket of her 17-month-old granddaughter, Serenity Murfin Marusic, who died with fentanyl in her system
The Wall Street Journal - logo
Originally Published: December 30, 2022

Brianna Roush woke from a nap at home on a Sunday afternoon last January to find her 20-month-old son, Leightyn, disoriented and moaning.

By the time she got him to the hospital, he wasn’t breathing. Medical staff tried for an hour to revive him before pronouncing him dead.

“Come on Leightyn, baby, you’ve got to come back,” Ms. Roush pleaded, according to body-camera footage from a police officer in the hospital room. “Please Leightyn, honey, you’ve got to wake up, baby.”

A police report said the toddler died after ingesting fentanyl, the powerful synthetic opioid fueling record U.S. drug deaths. Police found a bag with fentanyl residue on the kitchen floor of the family’s home. Ms. Roush told investigators she had smoked the drug with Leightyn’s father, Nicholas Lee, at home the morning the boy died.

The Circleville, Ohio, boy who loved pizza and the cartoon “CoComelon” had become another statistic in an insidious permutation of the drug crisis—very young children poisoned by America’s increasingly toxic opioid supply. As fentanyl reaches every corner of the U.S., replacing less-potent opioids and heightening the risk of death for users, infants and toddlers are accidentally dying.

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