Drugs, Death and Discussion: Time to talk about overdose in Marin

Morgan Salzer

Marin County, California, is known as a safe location with a police force that works all hours of the day, with streets that tend to empty out before 8:30 p.m. However, despite our peaceful facade, events such as the recent passing of former Redwood student Trevor Leopold reveal a more tragic side to our home.

Illegal fentanyl consumption had decreased in Marin County after 2014, when over-prescription became a local public health priority, according to a County of Marin news release from August of 2019. However, pill usage is once again on the rise, according to the Healthy Marin Partnership (HMP). There have been multiple instances where an individual accidentally ingests fentanyl by taking laced drugs, and Michelle Leopold, Trevor’s mother, wants to raise awareness of these cases.

“Trevor’s dead because he took the street pill and there was fentanyl in it, which is highly addictive and deadly, and the number [of users] is rising,” Michelle said.

Parker Leopold, Trevor’s brother, learned of his brother’s death through social media. Though coroner reports have not been completed, Parker understands that his brother had consumed pills––most likely Percocet––laced with three different kinds of fentanyl, which killed him in his sleep. 

“[Trevor’s friend] comes and shows me a Snapchat that was sent to someone. It was saying ‘I’m so sorry, I woke up and he was dead,’” Parker said. 

Currently, Marin County has a higher rate of drug overdose than California as a whole, with a rate of 12.3 deaths per 100,000 people compared to the state’s rate of 12.0 deaths per 100,000. HMP predicts that victims of overdose are most likely to be Caucasian males between the ages of 45 and 49, though drug poisoning can affect anybody involved with drugs. Michelle believes that combating substance abuse should start with confronting negative connotations regarding mental illness that are present in our society.

“Mental illness has a bad social stigma and we need to overcome that in America. It shouldn’t be embarrassing to say, ‘I have anxiety.’ [Someone shouldn’t have to say,] ‘Oh, I’m going to refuse treatment because I don’t want anybody to know that I have anxiety or any other social mental illnesses.’ Between mental illness and addiction, it was a lethal combination for Trevor,” Michelle said. 

Parker also believes state of mind is a strong contributor to drug use, especially when it comes to quitting.

“I want to believe that [Trevor] was changing and wanted to change, but it goes to show that no one’s going to change unless they actually want to. Addiction is a disease,” Parker said. “You really never know what’s in [a pill] unless you literally test it in front of you, but it only takes once to overdose and die. It doesn’t just happen in the movies.”  

If somebody you know is struggling with addiction, reach out to the variety of Marin-based organizations that can help, including Huckleberry Marin, Muir Woods Adolescent and Family Services, Bayside Marin Treatment Center and the Redwood Wellness Center.