On the night of April 5, 2021, Peter Jeske decided not to watch the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship game – Gonzaga University Bulldogs vs. Baylor University Bears.
Peter had always been a basketball fan. He played throughout high school and then continued to play with friends at UI.
To watch the game, Peter’s roommate and his friends gathered at a friend’s apartment. His roommate asked him if he wanted to go. He said no. The exams were coming up, so he decided to stay and study.
Later that day on April 6, his roommate found him dead. A small amount of fentanyl killed him.
Peter’s parents believe he took a counterfeit pill that he thought was a prescription drug like Xanax or a study drug like Adderall after a long night of studying.
“If he had cared a little less about studying for his classes and just left with his pals, he would still be alive,” said his father, Dean Jeske.
Peter’s decision to take a pill – a decision made by many students – ended his life.
A 2018 to study of the Journal of Undergraduate Neuroscience Education found that up to 20% of students took prescription stimulants that were not prescribed for them for recreational or academic purposes. Another to study a peer-reviewed journal found that more than 40% of young adults in college reported abusing a prescription psychotherapeutic drug at least once in their lifetime.
But students don’t take pills thinking they are going to overdose on fentanyl. This year, there has been an increase in counterfeit pills containing fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration. In fact, the rise was so severe that the DEA issued a Public security alert in September for the first time in six years.
The Public Safety Alert warned that counterfeit pills were being marked as legitimate prescription pills and were killing users at an unprecedented rate. In 2020, more than 93,000 people died from drug overdoses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Counterfeit pills are designed to look like real prescription drugs such as Xanax, Vicodin, or Adderall. The pills are widely available and often sold on social media. A significant number of high school and college students buy them, according to the DEA.
Dean believes the conversation about counterfeit pills is getting lost in the larger context of the opioid epidemic. He thinks drug addiction is a huge problem that needs to be addressed, but it is separate from the counterfeit pill problem – his son and others who died after taking the counterfeit pill did not have substance use disorders.
University administrations across the country have sought to raise awareness of the widespread problem of counterfeit pills. A page on Colorado Boulder’s website reads: “Drugs Containing Fentanyl in Boulder: Tips for Staying Safe.” Â»About Stanford University website, a 2020 letter from a university administration is titled “Dangerous Counterfeit Drugs in Our Community.”
Michael Gannon, the DEA’s deputy special agent in charge of operations in central and southern Indiana, said there was no way to know if a pill is counterfeit without a drug test kit. fentanyl.
A potentially fatal dose of fentanyl is 2 milligrams, Gannon said – small enough to fit on the tip of a pencil. Fentanyl is 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine, he said.
Jon Agley, deputy director of Prevention Insights at IU, said there is a misconception that all fentanyl is bad or illegal, but that fentanyl has legitimate medical uses. When properly prescribed by a healthcare practitioner, fentanyl can treat severe or chronic pain, especially for those who have tolerance to other opioids. Agley believes misconceptions about fentanyl stem from the sale and use of illicit fentanyl, which has become a driver of the overdose epidemic in the United States
Part of the problem with counterfeit pills is that they aren’t labeled correctly because they are made illegally and without regulation of their content, Agley said. Someone who thinks they are getting Xanax or Adderall may be taking fentanyl and not knowing it.
If a person has little or no tolerance to opioids, the risk of fentanyl overdose increases.
There is a whole spectrum of drug use, Agley said. Dependence designates physical dependence on a substance while addiction designates psychological or psychiatric dependence. Someone who uses a drug is not necessarily an addict or addict.
There’s also an old misconception that only people with substance use disorders can overdose, Agley said, but that’s not true.
âIt can happen to someone who has been using it for years, or it can happen to someone the first time they use it,â he said.
In Monroe County in 2019, there were 21 accidental overdose deaths related to fentanyl, said Monroe County Coroner Joani Stalcup. In 2020, that number more than doubled to 45 deaths.
Over the past two years, Stalcup said it has seen an alarming increase in the number of accidental overdose deaths. Fentanyl has been at the forefront of all of this, she said.
Naloxone, also known as Narcan, can reverse the effects of opioids, preventing overdoses. Local pharmacies that offer naloxone can be found on the Indiana State Department of Health website. website. The Monroe County Department of Health provides free naloxone nasal spray with brief training on its use. For more information, call (812) 349-2722.
In 2019, the DEA seized 2.6 million counterfeit pills nationwide. In 2020, they seized 6.8 million. So far, in 2021, they have seized over 9.5 million pills. Two out of five pills seized contained a potentially fatal dose of fentanyl, Gannon said.
Although Gannon did not enter the exact number of pills seized in his jurisdiction, he said the number was in the hundreds of thousands.
âIt’s worse than Russian Roulette – every time you take a pill you risk your life,â Gannon said.
This formulation has often been used by the DEA for its “One pill can kill“campaign. On the Today’s showDEA administrator Anne Milgram said: âIt’s Russian roulette, but it’s even more dangerous in a way. In Russian Roulette, people know they are circulating a loaded gun.
When Dean first wrote about his son’s death on a LinkedIn post, he compared college students taking non-prescribed pills to playing Russian roulette, like DEA. But, the DEA’s sentence struck him. “It’s worse than Russian roulette.” Few people knew about the problem with counterfeit pills, he thought, and young people in particular don’t realize that taking a pill could kill them.
âI’m not trying to teach kids about the dangers of drugs and alcohol or anything like that,â Dean said. “I just want them to be aware of this incredible risk they are taking in this very, very targeted area.”
Some young adults think that using prescription drugs is safer than harder drugs like heroin, but counterfeit pills also make them incredibly dangerous.
What looks like Xanax could be Xanax, but it could also be a pill containing fentanyl.
Peter made a mistake, Dean said. Many people who take counterfeit pills have made this mistake. It shouldn’t cost them their lives, he said.
âIt does,â he said. “It can, and it did.”
April 6, 2021 was the worst day of Dean Jeske’s life. That day, he responded to a knock from his home in Illinois. There was an Illinois state soldier on the other side of the door. The soldier asked him if he had a daughter at IU.
âNo, but I have a son who attends Indiana University,â Dean said.
âWait a minute,â Dean remembers, the soldier said, then walked back to his car.
Standing alone in the doorway, the same door his son had walked through the previous weekend, Dean started to feel sick to his stomach. He started to worry that something very bad had happened to Peter.
The soldier’s next words were something no parent would ever want to hear.
Peter had died in his apartment.
Dean was overcome by a wave of emotion. Suddenly he felt several stages of mourning mingle. Anger. Devastation.
Denial has set in. He couldn’t believe it. How could her son, a healthy, handsome 22 year old, disappear, just like that?
Quickly, his mind turned to the realization that he had to call his wife, who was dining with her friends. He had no idea how to break the news to her. For a moment life is normal, then there is a knock on the door and everything collapses. How could this be real, he thought? How could this be real?
âIt was the worst day of my life,â Dean said. “The next 24, 48 hours, two weeks, six months were the worst of my life.”
Before Peter’s death, Dean had never heard of counterfeit pills. Neither Peter’s family or friends believe that Peter often took pills. Growing up, Peter had never had any addiction problems.
Peter Jeske was a happy, caring and well-adjusted IU student. He loved sports, was a member of the Acacia Brotherhood, and studied finance at the Kelley School of Business. It was his last semester of school at IU, and he had gotten a job in Denver after graduation.
Peter was an outside the box thinker, Dean said. Of his three sons, Dean said he always chose Peter to start his own business. He regularly referred ideas to his father. Sometimes those were good ideas, most of the time they weren’t, Dean said with a chuckle. Peter once started a business for his father.
âIt’s called Amazon,â Dean said.
“Oh yeah, I guess they already do, right,” Dean recalls in response to Peter.
Peter’s smile would light up the room, his father said. He had a smart, quirky sense of humor. He was happily surrounded by friends and brothers at IU, but he also made sure everyone felt included.
After Peter’s death, a friend of his from high school told Dean a story about a time he was hanging out with one of Peter’s groups of friends for the first time. The friend was nervous, he said, because he didn’t know everyone. When he got down to the basement, Peter ran and gave him a hug. The friend told Dean that he would remember this moment for the rest of his life because he felt welcome.
At Peter’s funeral, Dean read a quote from Maya Angelou.
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Peter made sure that no one ever felt left out. And even if he’s gone, his family and friends will never forget how he made them feel.