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Dad sounds alarm after daughter dies of fentanyl exposure while studying at OSU | #childsafety | #kids | #chldern | #parents | #schoolsafey

COLUMBUS, Ohio — With a new school year underway, health leaders are sounding the alarm about fentanyl as many parts of the country anticipate seeing a record number of accidental overdose deaths in 2023 tied to the powerful opioid.

Last year, 21-year-old Tiffany Iler of Broadview Heights, along with 22-year-old student Jessica Lopez of Indiana, died during finals after investigators and toxicology reports stated fentanyl was found in their systems.

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“When [Tiffany] walked into a room, it’s like the lights went on,” father Rich Iler reminisced about his daughter. “She had this personality. She was on the path to helping people. I don’t want to see any parent go through this. It has destroyed our family.”

Iler explained how his daughter was a pre-med neuroscience major finishing up her junior year, and they had planned to pick her up from college the next morning.

“She wanted to be a doctor,” Rich Iler reflected. “She had ADHD and wanted to work with people cause she goes, ‘I understand ADHD, I have ADHD. I get it and I want to work with people and help them.’”

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Rich Iler speaks about his daughter, Tiffany, and her time at OSU.

An investigation by Columbus Police details how fentanyl was present in a bag found inside an OSU library and those who found it believed it to be the study aid Adderall.

Fentanyl is a narcotic, which is used as a painkiller, that is 50 times more powerful than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine.

Now, Iler hopes parents, students and colleges will keep a closer eye on what has quickly permeated so many sectors of society.

“When your child goes off to college, at least my view is, the #1 priority is the child’s safety and #2 is to get a good education,” Iler said. “If you can’t do #1, #2 doesn’t really matter.”

Health experts anticipate record number of fentanyl deaths in 2023

In Summit County, Health Commissioner Donna Skoda explained they have already seen an unconfirmed 163 accidental overdose deaths in 2023 across the county, surpassing the total of 155 during the same stretch in 2022. She said 80% of the preliminary accidental overdose deaths this year are tied to fentanyl.

“When you take [fentanyl], it slows your breathing to the point where you stop breathing and that’s why it’s become so dangerous,” she explained. “What’s really troubling right now is you’re seeing it show up in methamphetamines, cocaine and marijuana.”

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A drug not normally seen in places like college campuses is now harming those who never sought it out.

“Fentanyl is dose-related, so if you’ve been using drugs a long time, you can probably tolerate it a little more,” Skoda explained. “But if you haven’t been using it and you take it for the first time, which happens to a lot of people, you can end up dead if you don’t get revived with Narcan.”

Data from the CDC shows the rate of overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids such as fentanyl in 2021 was nearly 22 times the rate in 2013.

That amounts to nearly 71,000 drug overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids in 2021. Data has still yet to be finalized for 2022.

For Rich Iler, revisiting what happened to his daughter will not bring her back, but it just may help her continue on her path to helping people.

“You just hate to see young people that can make a difference in this world vanish before they can achieve what they wanted to achieve,” he said. “I’m disappointed that our country has allowed this to continue. This doesn’t make any sense to me.”

Clay LePard is a special projects reporter at News 5 Cleveland. Follow him on Twitter @ClayLePard or on Facebook Clay LePard News 5

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