Anchorage mom knows the heartache of fentanyl death

Published: Jan. 27, 2022 at 6:18 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - According to preliminary data from the Alaska Division of Health and Social Services, six out of every 10 drug overdose deaths in Alaska last year involved fentanyl. It’s been called an explosion of the dangerous drug on Alaska’s streets.

Sandy Snodgrass knows the heartache behind the statistics. Her 22-year-old son Bruce died in October after taking a drug she doesn’t think he knew was fentanyl.

Snodgrass has dozens of photos of her son hiking, fishing, and camping. His dream, she said, was to be a wilderness guide and the outdoors is where he felt most comfortable. She says his life took a turn about four years ago when he started taking drugs.

“He wasn’t able to participate in the things he loved anymore and our whole family struggled to help him for several years,” she said.

Snodgrass said her son was pre-disposed to addiction, his father and grandfather both died as a result of their own addictions. She warned him, but it didn’t deter him.

“The most difficult thing for me was, I couldn’t help him when he was under the influence. The last thing I said to him every time he walked out the door is, please be careful out there, I love you.”

Late last summer there was a breakthrough. Snodgrass said her son was accepted into a treatment program and graduated clean and sober. She described the transition as “huge.”

“You know, our family had him back,” she said. “For a minute we had him back.”

But not long after, Bruce went for a ride on his mountain bike and never came back. His body was found two days later behind a grocery store.

“He was within shouting distance of help, so the medical examiner told me that he probably took the drug and went down on the spot.”

Snodgrass does not believe her son, who’s drugs of choice were meth and alcohol, knew he was taking fentanyl. He didn’t know his relapse would be his last.

“That’s the message is, relapse is a death sentence with fentanyl on the streets like it is. Unfortunately, many young people do relapse, but they come back and they try again. But (with) fentanyl there is absolutely no guarantee that someone is going to be able to come back from a relapse.”

Snodgrass would like to see more education in schools about drugs and more treatment options for people who are addicted to them. She wishes her own son had recognized the danger of fentanyl so that one mistake didn’t cost him his life.

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