JACKSONVILLE, Fla — Hunter Clemons was just 22 when he died in February in his bedroom in Jacksonville.
“He was a momma’s boy,” Christy Couvillier said. “So, I think that he would want other kids to know, the pain and suffering as a mom, what a mom feels. It’s just like a piece of me is gone forever.”
One pill. That is what Couvillier says killed her son.
“He took a pill, just one, one pill and went in the kitchen got ready for work and went into his room, and we assume he started feeling bad. His lunch was still on the floor. And he just collapsed in his bed face first,” Couvillier said. “The detectives believe that it was fentanyl-laced ecstasy.”
Hunter’s autopsy listed his cause of death as drug toxicity due to fentanyl and methamphetamine, and his manner of death as an accident.
Illicit fentanyl is flooding the U.S. It's 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine. Because it’s so addictive, it’s being used to hook more users, laced into marijuana, even pressed into counterfeit prescription drugs indistinguishable from the real thing.
“You have really no idea what you're getting,” Dr. Lantie Jordanby, Chief Medical Officer at Lakeview Health said. “It could be what we call adulterated with something else. It could be laced with something else. It could be a much more potent form that you can't find from a doctor. It's just not a safe form. It's much stronger. The chemical makeup has been altered to become much stronger and much more lethal.”
As Hunter’s family acknowledged in his candid obituary, this wasn’t the first time he overdosed.
“On July 23, 2019, he overdosed on heroin laced with fentanyl and was on life support for four days before he woke up. After being released from the hospital, Hunter went and completed drug rehab and decided to start a new life back in Jacksonville, Florida.”
Hunter's mother said he had been clean for some time, and she had no idea he had relapsed.
“People who have been sober awhile and then relapse, their tolerance is much lower,” Dr. Jordanby said. “So, one pill can kill them even though they've had a history of it.”
Hunter's family wants you to remember his story before taking a pill or drug you buy on the street or even get from a friend. You can't see or smell fentanyl. It's nearly impossible to tell if drugs are laced unless you test them with fentanyl test strips.
“It doesn't discriminate by race. It doesn't discriminate by gender. It doesn't discriminate by income,” Melissa Griffith, Hunter’s aunt, said. “All it takes for the average non-drug abuser is three grains of salt of fentanyl, and it can kill you, instantly.”
Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody has issued a warning to those on Spring Break in Florida about the dangers of taking any illicit drug because of the rise in counterfeit pills and drugs laced with fentanyl.
”Kids are so carefree, and they go to a party, and they think that this pill is just a one-time party drug, and it can cost them their life,” Couvillier said. “There's no coming back. It's just it's literally in everything. Every drug out there.”
Couvillier hopes her son's death will motivate parents to talk to their kids.
“No child is exempt. People say not my son, not my daughter until it is, and then you're just blindsided. Parents and people in the community need to open their eyes to the severity and not be in denial about it. If you suspect your kids are using or something seems off, drug test them, fight for them,” Couvillier said. “Had I known that he was using again, I would have come, and I would have fought for him.”
Dr. Jordanby says it’s important to recognize addiction is a disease that can be treated and to reach out and ask for help.
“I know I’ll grieve my son for the rest of his rest of my life,” Couvillier said. “However, if my story could save one child, then he didn't die in vain.”
Parents can find warning signs of drug use and how to talk to your children here.