Archive for Monday, June 18, 2012

Drug case highlights growing problem

Woman facing charges after man died from fentanyl toxicity

June 18, 2012


Law enforcement officers say they continue to see prescription drugs as a valuable commodity in the criminal world.

“It’s a growing problem. It’s the biggest growing problem,” said Tonganoxie Police Chief Jeff Brandau, a former Kansas Bureau of Investigation administrator.

The abuse of certain medications can also result in serious injury or death.

In a 2010 Lawrence case, 26-year-old Jack O’Bryon was found dead at home after a nighttime party. According to the autopsy, Douglas County Coroner Dr. Erik Mitchell detected fentanyl, an extremely powerful opioid analgesic used to treat severe pain, in O’Bryon’s system in a range where “deaths are expected in persons with inadequate accommodation to the central nervous system depressive effects of the drug.” Mitchell listed fentanyl toxicity as the proximate cause of O’Bryon’s death.

According to court records, Douglas County prosecutors allege O’Bryon paid money for a Lawrence woman’s prescribed fentanyl patches. Prosecutors in 2011 charged the woman, Julie A. Thompson, and her daughter, Stephanie A. Cabral, with possession with intent to distribute fentanyl and unlawfully arranging for sales or purchases of controlled substances using a communication facility for the alleged transaction. Cabral also faces a conspiracy charge, and her next hearing is scheduled for June 25.

According to a motion written by Thompson’s defense attorney Branden Smith, prosecutors allege Thompson asked Cabral to send O’Bryon a text message to arrange the exchange of her prescribed fentanyl patches for money. Prosecutors in April dismissed the charges against Thompson, but Smith said he could not comment further because prosecutors have the option to refile the case.

Brandau said he has seen overdoses occur when someone attempts to ingest or chew on fentanyl patches to get the powerful medication into their bloodstream quickly.

“It’s extremely dangerous,” he said.

Patrick Parker, director of pharmacy at Lawrence Memorial Hospital, said it’s common for addicts to even try to steal used fentanyl patches out of the trash. He advised the best way to dispose of any extra prescription patches is to keep them secure — out of reach of children and pets — until law enforcement agencies offer a day to dispose of unwanted medication, which is usually twice a year.

“It’s a useful drug from a therapeutic standpoint. It’s very potent, and it works well,” Parker said of fentanyl, which is often used on cancer patients. “But like other potent drugs, it’s a dangerous drug. When it’s administered in doses that are too high, people can literally stop breathing.”

Brandau said another key tool would be how extensively doctors when writing outpatient prescriptions screen patients to check for past abuse of medications or illegal drugs.


LadyJ 5 years, 10 months ago

Any word on about when the next disposal date would be?

Shaun Hittle 5 years, 10 months ago

A rep. from the State Board of Pharmacy saw your question, and here's the answer: It is September 29, 2012. If you want information on it you can go to and check the link 'Got Drugs'.

jhawkinsf 5 years, 10 months ago

If we legalize these drugs and tax them, does this young man get to come back to life?

jafs 5 years, 10 months ago


No more than the many people who die of liver disease from alcoholism, or lung cancer from smoking, or heart attacks from fatty foods, etc.

However, if all drugs were legal, then heroin would be available without a prescription, and the dosage would be somewhat controlled, so perhaps this fellow wouldn't have felt the need to buy this drug.

jafs 5 years, 10 months ago


I don't think that people are drinking much less, though, are they?

JackMcKee 5 years, 10 months ago

the dealers have a problem alright. An addiction to easy money. If anything we should be locking them up longer.

JackMcKee 5 years, 10 months ago

users no. dealers, yes. Are you reay this obtuse?

JackMcKee 5 years, 10 months ago

one thing is for absolute certainty. You don't know anything about taxes.

JackMcKee 5 years, 10 months ago

I don't know. Tobacco and booze sure don't make more money than I could ever dream of in taxes.

How do you tax something you can grow in your backyard?

Stuart Evans 5 years, 10 months ago

not off the consumption, but they could tax the sale. And most people would prefer to go have their pick of a couple hundred strains rather than wait around for months for their single crop to be ready. the grow, harvest and cure isn't as easy as planting the seed and waiting.

jhawkinsf 5 years, 10 months ago

My point from above is that because certain drugs are illegal, some people simply will choose not to use them. Exactly what that number is, I don't know. But because some choose to break the law and use does not alter the truth that some choose not to use precisely because it is against the law. Remove the law and you remove that constraint for those people, whatever number you would like to attach to it. And with that increased number will come increased accidental deaths as well as all the other problems associated with drug use (addiction, DUI, loss of productivity, etc.). What we save in one area (war on drugs; enforcement, incarceration, etc.), we will spend on another. Maybe it is time to change direction. Maybe it is time to admit failure with one strategy and try another. But please, don't look at this problem through rose colored glasses.

jafs 5 years, 10 months ago

Were we better off during, or after Prohibition?

jhawkinsf 5 years, 10 months ago

I don't know. I said a while back that a very, very close relative died of alcohol abuse. "If" (and that's a big if) he had chosen not to begin down that road due to it being illegal (using your prohibition example), then I would say it would have been better if we had prohibition.
"If" a certain number of others also would not have begun down that path, then at what number would it have offset the problems prohibition created? What I do know is that there is a number out there. That number might be one or it might be 100,000. I don't know.
Would you care to give it a guess? How many deaths would be acceptable to offset the problems of prohibition, along with the deaths from violence that that created?

jafs 5 years, 10 months ago

Lateralis has a good response.

Also, you have to look at the deaths, and how they happen. If somebody chooses to drink themselves to death, it's unfortunate, but it's their choice.

Somebody who dies in a drive by shooting over gang turf didn't make that sort of choice - it's a bit more of an unjust death, in my view.

Prohibition clearly demonstrated to most people who think about it that you can't stop people from using alcohol by making it illegal - you just add layers of associated criminal problems and violence, which we're better off without.

Also, interestingly, there are some for whom illegality is a lure, rather than a disincentive - they get a bit of a charge out of breaking the law.

I'm sorry, of course, about your relative - that must have been very hard for you.

jafs 5 years, 10 months ago

I wasn't talking to you.

jhawkins and I were continuing a conversation we've had before, which had nothing to do with you.

akt2 5 years, 10 months ago

I can't help but wonder what her dx was to have patches prescribed, how long she had been being prescribed the patches and in what quantity per month, and who prescribed them. Another side to this tragedy is that the drug was most likely covered by Medicare or Medicaid. So the government paid for her meds and she turned around and sold them on the street. I hope they charge her for some kind of fraud on that too.

jonas_opines 5 years, 10 months ago

There will always be problems like this, and clamping down on enforcement and prosecution will do nothing to solve them. They'll just find something else. The damned bathsalts incidents should show us that clearly enough. There is, always has been, and always will be a demand for things that cushion the mind, even if just for a time, from the realities of an often harsh life.

For a very long time it seems we've been operating under the assumption that reducing and restricting the supply will help combat this sort of problem, and it doesn't appear to be working all that well. I agree with some of the above that we should at least ponder other alternatives at this point.

VandyVu 5 years, 10 months ago

It isn't a doctors job to run a background check on someone before prescribing them a medication. That's like saying its a teachers jobs to run a background check to make sure the kid wasn't a bully before enrolling. Too often lately we are looking to some higher power to fix individual problems when it is the persons responsibility to use it correctly. Say they did do a background check and found some sort of drug abuse then the doctor wouldn't prescribe the medication so when something happens to said person the doctor will be held responsible for not giving said person the drugs. It's ridiculous. Be responsible for your own actions.

Bursting 5 years, 10 months ago

A bully going to school and a doctor prescribing to a potential drug dealing system cheating manslaughterer are two entirely different things.

tbaker 5 years, 10 months ago

Humans cannot change human nature. A percentage of the population is going to use intoxicating substances no matter what the law says or does. A portion of that number are going to make fatal mistakes. Its a tragedy what happened to this young man. I have a son his age. I cannot imagine what his parents are going through with his death being so senseless. Unfortunately it will not be the last.

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