When the unimaginable occurred, this ER nurse made it her mission to warn others about the dangers of fentanyl-contaminated street drugs.
Dr. Z: Hey everyone, Dr. Z. I have Cindy Cruz here. We’re gonna talk about the fact that it is her son’s birthday, Dylan. And her son is no longer with us because he lost his life to an inadvertent fentanyl overdose. Cindy came all the way up from San Luis Obispo. She is an emergency room nurse, and she is now passionate about finding meaning and purpose in the loss of Dylan to try to teach others about this so that we can prevent these deaths in the future. Cindy, thanks for coming on.
Cindy: Thank you for having me.
Dr. Z: Happy birthday to Dylan.
Dr. Z: He’s behind you. And you know, let’s just start at the beginning. Tell us the story, tell us what happened.
Cindy: Well, my son was diagnosed with bipolar a year prior to his passing. He was doing really well. He was working, he was going to school. He hadn’t graduated yet, and he was due to graduate. He made music, he made clothing, he had his trademark, His trademark got published, unfortunately, on May 26th after he passed away, which he passed away on May 8th. So a month from now is the, I don’t know, “angelversary” they call it.
Dr. Z: So it was 2020, May 8th.
Cindy: Mm-hmm, yeah. And you know, COVID happens. And there was a lot of isolation. I’ve heard of kids getting bored or just kids being kids. And, you know, although my son did struggle with substance use disorder, not every kid that has gone through this has something. They’re either doing it for the first time. And I want to make the point that it’s counterfeit pills. And the other thing is it’s fentanyl poisoning, not overdoses.
Dr. Z: So fentanyl poisoning, thank you for correcting me. So help me understand what happened to Dylan. So he was diagnosed with bipolar, and you had gotten him into therapy and just the diagnosis was life changing because he finally had something to say, oh, this is what it is and to do something about it. Just start with that, what was that like?
Cindy: It was hard because he started acting out, and he was living with his dad at the time because he was living with me and he was acting out so he went back to his dad’s and he was doing, you know, he was struggling. And then I went to live with them to see what was going on. So I moved up there and I lived there for nine months and I realized he had a manic episode and I said, “He’s having a manic episode.”
Dr. Z: And you’re an emergency nurse so-
Cindy: Yeah, and so I saw it-
Dr. Z: You’ve seen your share.
Cindy: I guess he was having them and his dad didn’t know because his dad didn’t know what to look for. You know, teenagers, they stay up late, but you know, he wasn’t really keeping track. So I stayed up for as long as my son did, which was five days.
Dr. Z: Oh my gosh.
Cindy: And I was exhausted.
Dr. Z: Wow.
Cindy: So I wrote down how many hours he slept, what he was doing, his activity and his mood. And I wrote down every day how long he slept. And then I got the journal and then I had him write exactly that. And he wrote exactly what I wrote. He has energy, he feels like he’s on drugs, but he’s not. I drug tested him, no drugs in his system. And that’s where I said, this is what’s going on. And so he got the diagnosis through the psychiatrist. And I think when he got that, it was just clarity. You know, everything made sense to him. It wasn’t easy. He was in denial and he really had a hard time asking, why did he have to have bipolar? Why did he have to have this? And a lot of people that suffer from mental illnesses and bipolar especially they tend to be really creative humans, you know? And I used to say, you have super powers that not everybody has, you know? Just a positive thing to it and told him what he needed to do. He needed to sleep on a regimen. He had to eat good foods, exercise, but telling a teenager that’s-
Dr. Z: Oh yeah, right.
Cindy: But he went into therapy because that was the terms. He wanted to come back to live with me in LA. And so I said, “Yeah, but you have to do dialectical behavioral therapy and you have to do it for eight months.” So he did it two weeks shy of eight months and I said, “That’s fine with me.” I didn’t think he was going to stick it out that long, but he did, and he used his skills. He actually would use them. And we communicated with each other. We’d have family meetings where we could tell each other if there was anything bothering us during the week so it wouldn’t built up, you know and I would journal what was going on, what we talked about, and it was great. He was just like a different kid, a different kid. And he was doing his clothes, making music. I’d hear him in the room, making music, he was working. He was doing really, really. It would have been the least time I would suspect something like this to happen.
Dr. Z: Whoa, so he was doing so much better? Was he on any medication or was this all DBT?
Cindy: Getting him to take medication and getting, you know, people that suffer from bipolar I know have a hard time and they call it non-compliance, which I don’t know that I like that word either.
Dr. Z: It’s not the right word, yeah.
Cindy: Yeah so it’s, he didn’t want to, because like a lot of them, they like their energy. They like their moments when they have that energy because they have the depression, you know, and that comes after they have like, they’re up for days and active and then they crash. And that’s really, really hard to watch. That was really, really hard for me to see him go through those times.
Dr. Z: The down depression.
Cindy: The down.
Dr. Z: Yeah, yeah. And so this was happening in the last year of his life.
Dr. Z: And so walk me through then what happened.
Cindy: So he was working and going to school. He was doing virtual, which he was doing virtual before COVID so that wasn’t anything new.
Dr. Z: I see.
Cindy: He wanted to do that, and he was doing great. I said, “Okay, you can do that as long as you keep with it.” And he was so when COVID happened that didn’t really change our world as far as the virtual stuff. But he was still getting out with his friends and, you know doing things and working and…
Dr. Z: And he was 18.
Cindy: He was 17.
Dr. Z: 17.
Cindy: And then he, when he passed he was 18. But he was still in school. He was going to graduate high school. So he didn’t get to graduate high school. And what he did was he went on to Snapchat and what he thought he was buying was ecstasy. And it wasn’t. And I had to kind of put the pieces together of what happened, because, you know, they said capsules or some capsules. And I guess there was two capsules or something. I don’t know. They never told me, maybe they said capsule. I mean, I was in shock. So then I found some of the capsules when I went through his stuff, when I was bringing it to his dad so we can go through his stuff together. I just felt that was right. And I found them and looking at them, I was trying to figure out what it was. And then I looked it up. And then I found that it was ecstasy. And so I said, I think he thought he was taking ecstasy but it had fentanyl in it. So these kids are buying stuff, they think it’s a Xanax. They think it’s a Percocet. They think it’s ecstasy. It’s in cocaine, it’s in everything now. And he didn’t know he was gonna, he didn’t know he was going to die.
Dr. Z: So this is where my introduction being wrong is a good teaching point. This is not a fentanyl overdose. This is fentanyl poisoning.
Dr. Z: This was the intent to take MDMA, ecstasy, molly, and it was laced with fentanyl. Why, why do people, why would they do that?
Dr. Z: Because it seems to me that it makes no sense yet I hear about this all the time.
Cindy: Mm-hmm, well, I know people say, “why would drug dealers want to kill their customers?” Well, there’s more customers, you know, and they’re not chemists. They don’t know what they’re dosing, and they’re putting in everything because it’s cheap. It’s cheap to buy and they have, you can buy a pill machine on Amazon and the logos and everything to make these pills, you know?
Dr. Z: Wow.
Cindy: And they’re selling ’em and they’re counterfeit so they’re duping these kids into thinking that they’re buying something and then they’re taking something else. And the dealer that gave this to my son, he sold to another kid, a 19-year-old kid and he died.
Dr. Z: Oh.
Cindy: And it was the same dealer.
Dr. Z: It’s the same dealer.
Dr. Z: And was that dealer caught?
Cindy: No, yes and no. It’s currently under investigation.
Dr. Z: Okay, then we don’t talk about it, yeah.
Cindy: Yeah, but I had to do all the work. When he passed away they kind of just said, “Okay, here’s the coroner card,” and “All right, I’m so sorry for you loss” and that’s it. And that’s it, just like left and to me it was this healthy boy. It didn’t make sense, you know, if you’re telling me there was a capsule there. Like, how can he have died from taking something that, you know, it would have to been a lot. And that’s why it’s not an overdose. And it only takes two milligrams which is the size of two grains of salt.
Dr. Z: Two milligrams of fentanyl. Yeah, because we give it in micrograms in the hospital.
Cindy: In micrograms, yeah.
Dr. Z: Oh my God.
Cindy: Yeah, so…
Dr. Z: So you had mentioned substance use disorder with Dylan. What was his history with substances? Was it anything that we would say, oh, fentanyl is something that he would actively choose?
Cindy: No, no, never. I’ve never seen him ask for that. Xanax, he would ask for that. He smoked pot. He didn’t like uppers. You know, we communicated so-
Dr. Z: So you were open about this stuff.
Cindy: Yeah, I mean, we had to go through everything and he felt comfortable talking to me, and he would tell us like, “I did this, I did that.” He said he tried peyote and I’m like, that’s, you know, but at least I knew where he stood. And I don’t know why he chose ecstasy. I think it’s, you know, I think he thought he could have that euphoria. It wasn’t anything that was gonna be harder, you know, a harsher drug. And, you know, he knew Xanax was, you know, I could tell if he had taken Xanax in the past, his attitude was so different.
Dr. Z: So he went in with a certain intention. This is not a kid who’s, you know, mainlining heroin. And even if he was, that’s another path that you go, well, that’s a kind of addiction that we need to deal with. He had bipolar and there’s always a question of self-medication.
Cindy: Right. So he was self-medicating, yeah.
Dr. Z: And he had a mom who was clearly concerned, had him in therapy. He was getting better on the bipolar side, connected with mom.
Dr. Z: And then this happens and this, I am gonna say it, if you aren’t, but you probably would, too, is this was murder.
Cindy: It’s murder, yeah, yeah.
Dr. Z: And we hardly talk about it. I suspect that it is rampant during the pandemic when people are turning to medications and drugs because we’re isolated from each other.
Dr. Z: And this happened and now you’ve gone to Sacramento, you’ve lobbied for legislation. Tell me a little bit about that, how you’re finding a cause to honor this loss which is unimaginable, by the way.
Cindy: Yeah, yeah, I had to find people to connect with because to me it was such a loss and didn’t, you know, when you lose a child from a car accident or something or cancer everybody’s like, “I’m so sorry for your loss.” You know, and when it’s this, it’s kind of like, oh, you know, and people say, “I’m sorry for the loss,” but it’s such a different thing. And they don’t understand that it can happen to their kid.
Dr. Z: Yeah.
Cindy: And that’s where this fentanyl changes that because you’re gonna have kids that are experimenting. You’re going to have kids that, you know, you’re gonna have your recreational users that are partying college students, partying, all those people that go to those festivals, they take ecstasy. What gonna happen when things really open up? I mean, I can’t see. There’s been so much fentanyl that’s been brought into the country and confiscated that I just, I can’t see. There’s just going to be more deaths.
Dr. Z: And this is just straight fentanyl. This is not even carfentanil or one of these super potent where people are inhaling the dust and coding.
Cindy: Yeah, so carfentanil, obviously. Yeah, that’s worse than that. I mean, that’s in different states, too, and they are dying from that, but fentanyl is right now the thing that’s circulating heavily. So I think that’s just what people don’t, I don’t understand how it hasn’t been addressed yet.
Dr. Z: Yeah.
Cindy: And it’s been going on since 2013. You’ve had so many families. I feel like somehow now it’s coming out more. I don’t know if it has to do with COVID or what, but I feel like you’re hearing about it more, or I don’t even sometimes know if I just about it because-
Dr. Z: You’re in the circles.
Dr. Z: And that reminds me, so you’re talking to these families who’ve had similar loss.
Dr. Z: Is that helpful, empowering, disturbing for you? How does that work?
Cindy: It’s a little bit of both, because, you know, when I found them and I’m friends with a lot of ’em now, and it’s heartbreaking. One of ’em, their child’s 14, and it’s devastating to see these young kids don’t get to live their life. They don’t get to get married, have kids. Their lives are taken. And we have a bond. I don’t know, we meet parents or we’ve talked to them on Facebook for awhile and then you meet them in person and it’s just like, we just have like this automatic bond. And it’s just sad that there’s so many of us. And it’s helped, but sometimes I have to take a break from it because seeing death after death and all these new deaths that have occurred after my son. And two of his friends have passed away in February. He had two friends who knew my son passed away. I mean, I’ve been very, but I think that’s where we just have to drill it in over and over, you know, their brains aren’t developed yet. You know, they don’t have that. They just think that they’re invincible, you know?
Dr. Z: I think holding a 17 year old, say, accountable for any rational decisions is insanity. And there’s a lot of moralizing and stuff that happens, which is natural human behavior. In fact, you have to excuse it and actually embrace it and say, this is how humans are, we’re very judgy. It’s like, when you said, “Oh, sorry for your loss. How did he pass?” “Oh, he was poisoned by fentanyl.” And people will immediately, in their judging mind which we evolved to manage in tribal situations like this starts going well no, so what kind of personal responsibility did he abdicate to do this? And in reality, as mom and as a scientist and as a father, you look and go, this is a child who has a developing brain who purchased something that he thought was okay that actually is almost socially acceptable in those circles now.
Dr. Z: If not frankly socially acceptable. And he was poisoned by a criminal.
Dr. Z: And if that isn’t even in the league of being hit by a drunk driver who’s unrepentant, then I don’t know what is.
Cindy: Yeah. And that’s what that law that we’ll discuss in a minute, but I think it’s true. People don’t want to look at it as murder. Now we have police officers doing that more, and they’re getting trained because apparently when they die of that there’s a certain look, there’s a certain, the way they died, because it’s so quick they die in a certain position and they can tell. And so I think it’s a training that needs to be done so that everybody’s on the same page. And it’s multifaceted where public health, hospitals, everybody needs, the police officers, EMS, everybody has to be, you know-
Dr. Z: On the same page with that. And EMS and hospital professionals and first responders, it’s like Narcan until proven otherwise, right?
Cindy: Right, yeah.
Dr. Z: Yeah. So let’s talk about some solutions, and I want to dig in a little bit more on this. So tell me about the legislation that you were supporting.
Cindy: Yeah, so my friend who I’ve met through this, Matt Capelouto, his daughter, his 22-year-old daughter passed away. I believe she’s was 20. I don’t know if I got the numbers right. But she passed away from buying what she thought was an Oxy and it wasn’t. The person brought it to her home. That’s the thing they deliver to you. So they call it drug hub.
Dr. Z: Wow, oh my gosh.
Cindy: Yeah and off Snapchat-
Dr. Z: That’s another pandemic, wonderful innovation, right?
Cindy: Social media is, you know, it’s different platforms, but the one mostly is Snapchat that is…
Dr. Z: Because it’s so ephemeral. It just disappears when you’re done with the order.
Cindy: Yeah, yeah, and Snapchat knows, but-
Dr. Z: Do they?
Cindy: But doesn’t seem to be really doing anything.
Dr. Z: Of course not.
Dr. Z: It’s just like Facebook knows they’re destroying the world by putting us against each other and tribalizing us.
Cindy: Yeah, yeah.
Dr. Z: So tell me more.
Cindy: So we went, the law he has is Alexandra’s Law which Melissa Melendez, she authored it. And it’s basically, like you said, the drunk driver where somebody gets caught for selling a narcotic, they come in. They sign something saying they are aware if they take a life, they can be charged with murder. So it’s a warning.
Dr. Z: I see.
Cindy: It’s just a warning, it’s no punishment.
Dr. Z: So you’re caught dealing drugs, you get arrested, they have you sign a thing saying, I understand that if somebody dies because of what I do I can be charged with murder.
Cindy: Right, because it’s really hard to prove implied malice.
Dr. Z: Right.
Cindy: So that’s where, you know, they have to know that they could have harmed somebody and taken someone’s life. So by signing that that’s saying they were aware, they were informed.
Dr. Z: Right.
Cindy: And it didn’t really go well with legislation because I feel like they’re protecting more the drug dealers and I know that the war on drugs and all of that. This is different, this is so different. And you can’t look at it the same way. You have to deter it somehow. And I know arresting people in the past hasn’t worked but there’s probably many things that they haven’t done like rehabilitation for them, the drug dealers.
Dr. Z: Right, right, right.
Cindy: Some sort of program. So it’s been frustrating.
Dr. Z: And you know, a lot of parents who lose children like this become quite radicalized about the war on drugs. In other words, they want it escalated. They want everybody in jail. The minute I met you, I was like, this person is different. She’s compassionate. She’s talking about rehabilitation for drug dealers. She, like I, am very ambivalent about the war on drugs and feel that, you know, you wonder how much of it actually creates a culture of illegality that then leads to this kind of business.
Dr. Z: But again, those are bigger questions than you and I, but it is something that as a society we need to start to talk about. We do need to raise awareness about how these, especially with our kids.
Cindy: Yeah, they’re just dying, they’re dying at high rates and they’re young. People know that.
Dr. Z: So my daughter’s 13. You’ve told me stories about a 13 year old who had this happen. And because you’re now in these, unfortunately in these circles, I’m going to go home and I’m going to talk to both my kids. And I’m going to say, hey, today I did a show. I want you to watch the show. And then I want you to understand that, look, like your dad you are going to be very curious about stuff. You’re gonna feel the social pressure to do things. And that’s normal you’re gonna feel those things, but this is what you have to be aware of, right? And always, you can come talk to me. I will never get angry with you. I will never judge you. In fact, you and I’ll get high together. I’m kidding. You know, and I always tell the story, but I had a girlfriend in high school and her dad was a teacher at our school. And when I went to college, he said, “Listen, Zubin, you’re gonna end up doing something. Just don’t mix drugs and do them together with other people if you’re going to do them.” So he was a realist, and I never forgot that advice because it wasn’t, just say no. Yeah, because kids will rebel against that. They don’t hear that, especially the 17 and 18. And man, our brains, especially men are not, frontal lobe isn’t fully formed until our late twenties. I mean, we have to help as much as we can.
Dr. Z: You know? So you’re an emergency department nurse.
Dr. Z: I can’t imagine how this has changed your life.
Cindy: Yeah, you know, I took time off work to get my son to 18. You know, I said, I’m gonna focus on him. I realized what has happened. And I said, nursing, nursing’s going to be there. I need to be there for my son. So I took time off work. I just spent time taking him to therapy, making sure, you know, and he was doing great, he was doing so good. So I started looking for jobs again. I was like, okay, I’m ready to go. And this happened and one thing I do want to point out is that so many of these kids die at home.
Dr. Z: At home.
Cindy: In their bedrooms.
Dr. Z: Where did Dylan die?
Cindy: In his bedroom.
Dr. Z: Oh my gosh.
Cindy: Yeah, so parents walk in and they find their children.
Dr. Z: Oh.
Cindy: That’s how most of these happen. And it’s something you’ll never forget. You know, I’ve seen dead people. I’ve cleaned dead bodies. Death was never weird for me. It is just part of life that, you know, obviously when someone died when they were young, it’s heartbreaking for their family and that compassion. But when it’s your own child, I knew instantly he was gone. He was gone. There was nothing I could do. And to be an emergency room nurse who has saved people and not to be able to save my own kid has really messed with my mind. It’s just, it’s awful. How can someone that’s saved other people’s lives not have her son anymore? Just feels like, what did I do in my life that this has happened? And so going back to work is just not an option right now, safety wise. And, you know, we take an oath of do no harm. And I can’t remember things. It’s called grief brain. And a lot of parents know exactly what I’m talking about that have lost a child. You just, you can’t remember the simplest things. It’s just bizarre, but that may make sense.
Dr. Z: Oh man. So you found Dylan or-
Cindy: I found Dylan.
Dr. Z: You found Dylan.
Cindy: Yeah, and I went into shock. I mean, I was like hyperventilating when they got there just because I knew they couldn’t do anything for him. You know, I say looking back, I wish I wouldn’t have called yet because I knew he was gone so what calling would have done, you know? But I wasn’t in the right state of mind.
Dr. Z: How can you not?
Cindy: But I just would’ve liked to be with him a little bit longer before I called, looking back because they just, you know, they take him and that’s it. I mean, you see them again at the mortuary. And something I think about often is, you don’t ever ask your kids, what do you want when you die? Do you want to be cremated?
Dr. Z: Oh my God, yeah.
Cindy: Do you want to be buried? And I feel like we’re getting to that point where people need to ask their children now because this is happening so often. And you have to make that decision that you’re not supposed to be making. It’s not the line of order.
Dr. Z: Yeah.
Cindy: But luckily my son had a morbid sense of humor so he had told his feature stepsister that he’s like, when I die, promise me, you’ll put my ashes in the sandbox so kids can play with my remains.
Dr. Z: Oh my gosh.
Cindy: So I just laugh because that’s just his, you know, he gets it from me, but, I just think I knew then he would want to be cremated so I was able to make that decision.
Dr. Z: Yeah, oh man, you know, Cindy, I put the tissues over by you, but like, now I need the tissues. This is unimaginable. And as a father, I can’t even, I mean, I can’t even wrap my head around it. And I mean, if people watch the show and they feel like 10% of what I feel right now and they talk with their kids or they advocate in their community, or even if they get some Narcan and keep it, I mean, I don’t know what the answer is. I think we have to collectively solve this problem. It may be the easier access. And then people will moralize about it and say, well then you’re encouraging this stuff. Oh my God.
Cindy: Yeah, you know, the war on drugs, I would have been towards legalization prior to this.
Dr. Z: Right, how about now?
Cindy: Now, I just-
Dr. Z: It’s too much.
Cindy: It’s too much, it’s too fatal. You only need two grains of salt and it’s, I don’t understand if we know where this has been coming from why we haven’t handled it like that.
Dr. Z: Yeah.
Cindy: It just doesn’t make sense.
Dr. Z: And I wonder if legalization, regulation, taxation of it through a process that eliminates the criminal element, you know, as was done with alcohol might be better. But those are broad questions. But walking in and finding your son, that should never ever happen. And you know what, you touched on something which is the guilt that healthcare professionals feel because we feel like we should control these things, life and death and so on. And of course we can’t.
Dr. Z: And of course, finding love and forgiveness for our own situation is the hardest step. You’re probably quicker to forgive drug dealers because you’re a loving person than you are to turn the beam of compassion on yourself. And that manifests as grief brain and brain fog. And I see it, and I’m not saying necessarily even you. I see it in so many nurses in particular.
Dr. Z: ‘Cause you guys are the nurturing type, phenotype already. Doctors are just assholes.
Cindy: Yeah, I’ve seen where you talk about compassion, empathy, and that makes sense. I look at empathy in a different way than what you were saying-
Dr. Z: Tell me.
Cindy: ‘Cause you do have to have that boundary of separating. I think empathy is good. I do like the way you describe it though, I got to say because it does make sense in the medical field. It does make sense. But I think it’s the emotional intelligence part.
Dr. Z: Right.
Cindy: And when you’re emotionally intelligent you can do empathy ’cause you know how to regulate it. But I know you get that.
Dr. Z: Oh, you know what? So what you just described is cognitive empathy. That’s what I’m advocating.
Cindy: Yeah, oh yeah, absolutely.
Dr. Z: Yeah, it’s compassion, exactly right. Because see, for example now we’re just gonna get a little heady for a second. So when you told your story about finding Dylan I had affective empathy. So I put myself in your shoes, felt what that was like. And that pain was my pain. And it took a lot to keep me from having to grab the tissues ’cause I’m doing a show. That is important. You do need to do that from time to time, especially with your own family, but as professionals it is debilitating because you come home every day with that. But what you’re saying is emotional intelligence is a cognitive empathy. I can understand what you’ve gone through. I can understand that you’re hurting. And that triggers something unique which is a concern and love in the face of suffering. So that there’s an outpouring and opening of the heart and a desire to help, which may be a tough love. It may be telling somebody struggling with substance abuse that, no, they can’t have Dilaudid in the ER. They can have the turkey sandwich, but Dilaudid but we need to talk about harder things, and that’s a love. And so, you know, these are complex things. The other idea is this philosophy of our culture in the US, let’s just talk about opioids because that’s not what Dylan was doing, but as a culture, we love a pill to cure our problems.
Cindy: Yeah, I mean, in some movies we’re a joke, you know they say, “Oh, those Americans, they love their opioids.”
Dr. Z: Eurovision, yeah, yeah.
Cindy: Yeah, that’s what it was.
Dr. Z: It’s such a great-
Cindy: Yeah that was a great movie.
Dr. Z: Will Ferrell nailed Americans.
Cindy: Yeah, he did, he did.
Dr. Z: Like, “Yo, here are some opioids.”
Cindy: Yeah, exactly.
Dr. Z: Yeah, because we are like that.
Dr. Z: And I think it’s because we have a, I mean, it’s very complicated and I’ve talked about it on the show. I think we’ve lost this connection to each other. We’ve jumped on a hamster wheel of success. Americans are really good at chasing success. We work harder than almost anyone else in the world, actually, we take less vacation, and we don’t sit down for meals with our family. We don’t value real food. We like our stuff processed and fast so we can eat it in front of the TV. We’re distracted by devices. And we want a quick answer and there are no quick answers. Life is this very complicated, difficult thing that is about connections and purpose between people.
Dr. Z: And what’s, I think, a beautiful thing about Dylan is it sounds like he found that more and more and more in the last year of his life when he was diagnosed and you were there, I mean-
Cindy: Yeah, I think before he just he acted out and he didn’t want anyone to care about him because he didn’t care about himself because he was struggling. And as he understood, he stopped pushing away and he started understanding like, this is love. ‘Cause I mean, I gave him tough love. So he got in trouble for one thing, and that was stealing his dad’s car.
Dr. Z: It least it was from family.
Cindy: It was from family.
Cindy: And so he got caught and he had marijuana. He had his dog, so the dog went to the pound. He went to juvenile hall and the car got impounded. So it was quite a thing.
Dr. Z: How old was he when that happened?
Dr. Z: 16, yeah.
Cindy: So then he started acting out more at school kind of thing and he ended up getting aggressive and fight with his dad. And you know, he yelled at the vice principal at the school.
Dr. Z: Hey, who hasn’t done that? Not me, I’m too scared.
Cindy: Yeah, so when he did that, he ended up going actually on a 5150, ’cause you know, he was acting out badly and he was not in a good place.
Dr. Z: This is mental illness, yeah.
Cindy: Yeah, and it’s sad, but he ended up in juvenile hall. He went on probation. They let him deal with his mental health. The judge was amazing and they let him deal with that. And they said, we’ll deal with this after. And they were so good. His probation officer was amazing, but he ended up getting an ankle bracelet.
Dr. Z: Oh, wow.
Cindy: So when he tried to act out a couple of times at home, like leaving when he’s not supposed to past the time so it’s past your time. He had rules that his probation officer made. And so I will call her and then she could ping him and she could talk to him through the thing.
Dr. Z: Oh, through the bracelet?
Cindy: So I said, “Do you pick up your leg and say, ‘hello?'” Like a telephone. He’s just laughing at that. And she said, “If you don’t go home in 10 minutes, I’m going to arrest you on Tuesday.”
Dr. Z: Wow.
Cindy: He said, “I’ll see you on Tuesday.”
Dr. Z: Oh, wow.
Cindy: And then when he went in, he told her, “I’m so sorry. You didn’t deserve to be talked to like that, I’m sorry.” I didn’t tell him to say anything. I was looking at him like-
Dr. Z: What?
Cindy: Surprised, and he genuinely meant it ’cause he knew she genuinely meant it. Like, he didn’t like condescending people. He liked people that were genuine.
Dr. Z: Authentic.
Cindy: Yeah. He had a really good intuition and he knew that she cared and she was trying to work with him. And, you know, he apologized, “I’m so sorry, you didn’t deserve that. I just want to tell you that.” And then she arrested him, and he knew he was going to get arrested. She told him so he went through that process and he was only there a couple months and it changed. He started changing, everything started changing, and he was just doing so good. But yeah, I mean, he suffered from substance use disorder. He coped, he was coping and self-medicating, and I think he just made a mistake of taking ecstasy which he would think nothing’s, you know, you don’t think that fentanyl is going to be in that.
Dr. Z: Right.
Cindy: You know, but it was.
Dr. Z: I think that from this really unimaginable loss there’s going to be some good for sure because you are tirelessly advocating now. I mean, today you drove on your son’s birthday, three hours from San Luis Obispo to come hang out here where the light wasn’t working. And I had to fumble for an hour getting the light to work, and you put up with all that and you are going to help if even one kid gets saved, right?
Dr. Z: But it’s gonna be more because you’re not gonna stop.
Cindy: No, sometimes I want to. Sometimes I feel like people aren’t listening and I’ll be honest, sometimes I’m like, well, their kids can die. You know, it’s not like, it’s just frustrating. And I don’t mean that, but I just-
Dr. Z: But it can feel like that.
Cindy: I just feel like nobody’s listening. And I’m like, my kid’s not gonna ever come back. This isn’t going to bring my child back. I’m trying to save their kids. And I think that’s where we need more people that haven’t been affected to advocate or learn more about it and put pressure on something being done. And I don’t have the answers when it comes to legalization. I’m a very open person and I can look at both sides.
Dr. Z: We call that the alt-middle over here.
Cindy: Oh yeah, I’m definitely in the alt-middle. I, to me want to research something and make my own decision. I don’t want someone telling me how to think. And then I can decide for myself. And that’s what I did with this bill. And I totally was for it because the drug is so potent. These dealers do know what they’re doing, they’re selling. It’s not like we’re trying to, we always use that racial thing. Well, these people are going to be punished and we’re just picking on a certain demographic. And it’s not that, I mean, I’m Latina. If it’s a Latino, which a lot of ’em are, too, that are bringing it over from Mexico, take them. They shouldn’t be doing that.
Dr. Z: Accountability.
Cindy: I think accountability. I don’t care, you know, there was somebody who’s Caucasian. He got arrested. He was responsible for like 10 lives, you know? So it doesn’t matter what you, you just shouldn’t be doing that. And they know that they’re taking these lives. That guy knew he was taking a life. He knew he took a life, sold two days later and took another kid’s life. I think we need to figure out, you know, come to the table that it’s not Democrat, it’s not Republican, it’s, we need to get our minds together and figure out how we’re going to deal with this crisis that’s been here before COVID, will be here long after. Last year there was 88,000 that died from overdoses.
Dr. Z: 88,000.
Cindy: Mm-hmm. And in Los Angeles, there was 887 who died in Los Angeles County from fentanyl, from fentanyl.
Dr. Z: But remember, we’ve shut down our entire world for hundreds of thousands of peoples that are dying that are actually, 45% of them are elderly or over 65. These are young people with lives ahead of them. They’re your honor student, they’re your co-worker. And you know, in healthcare, we know there’s so much, there’s diversion and all these other issues. And we have our, you know, anesthesiologists have such a high rate of accidental overdose. And that’s not even talking about the kind of poisoning that your son was the victim of a malicious act by a dealer. So the more we talk about it, the more, we always say, sunshine is the best disinfectant. You shine a light on it, you raise awareness about it which is what we’re doing today. Now I have a very important question for you though because I know that this heavy topic. Latinx, is that a thing? Or is that something the media just made up?
Cindy: Mm, I don’t know, to be honest. I don’t think it’s a thing, but…
Dr. Z: Okay, so I have it on record that a Latina just said that Latinx is not a thing. All right, people, I will never tolerate the use of Latinx on my show.
Cindy: No, I think we kind of just take whatever these days and make it, I don’t know.
Dr. Z: Make it a thing?
Dr. Z: Yeah.
Cindy: It’s too much.
Dr. Z: It’s kind of a general worshiping at the temple of woke, I call it.
Cindy: Yeah, oh yeah.
Dr. Z: Yeah, yeah. What next for you, Cindy?
Cindy: Oh, I guess just continuing to advocate and let people know about fentanyl poisoning, especially people that have kids. You need to talk to your kids. There’s a woman that makes these videos. I was telling you about names. Her name’s Sarah Fisher.
Dr. Z: We’ll link to her video. So yeah, if you can send me the link.
Cindy: Yeah, she put the lives, and I think people really need to understand the stigma of addiction in the past is keeping people from understanding what this is. And it’s a whole other thing. There’s three waves, right? So there was the opioids, the pills, the prescriptions that came in. Then after that when they started taking those away, then you got heroin. People that needed the opiates, now they can’t get it so they turn to heroin. Well, now this stuff’s being illegally manufactured in a different country in a lab and being brought into our country through Mexico, through the cartels. And then it’s getting spread out to the kids. You can’t get a real Xanax, a real Percocet anymore. So now they’re they’re just selling them as like, oh, here’s a Percocet, here’s a Xanax. They say in New York one in every four pill has fentanyl in it.
Dr. Z: One in every four. So this is something that is not commonly known. And certainly I’m sure the kids talk among themselves but this was not a thing when I was growing up.
Dr. Z: The stuff you scored was legit. Like you knew that’s what it, oh, if anything your weed was laced with something. At least you said that when you freaked out smoking too much weed, not that I ever did that. ‘Cause my parents watch the show, but it’s, you know, that is a good way to wrap this in because I think people should understand that, and they should talk to their kids openly about this. Stop stigmatizing addiction, too. That’s the other thing.
Dr. Z: I know even a lot of my fan base, they’re like, this is a choice. You made the choice to do it, you pay the price. Okay, I understand accountability. In fact, you and I are advocating for accountability, especially for parents to be accountable to teach their kids but also for drug dealers to be accountable for the murders that they commit. But this is different. I think you need to look at addiction in a bio-psycho-social model of disease, which is what it is. That’s the only way you help it. That’s the only way you diagnose it. And you can’t have compassion if you assume someone made a choice that killed them intentionally.
Cindy: Yes, was just gonna say that.
Dr. Z: Oh, thank you. Well, so we’re reading each other’s minds.
Cindy: Yeah, the compassion thing, I think when we, you know, people that are suffering from addiction, I don’t like the word addicts or junkie. I just like to say drug dependency.
Dr. Z: Yeah.
Cindy: That’s more of like, and I know people think of that different, too. But I like to say, they deserve a chance.
Dr. Z: Right.
Cindy: They deserve a chance, too. They are human beings. And who thinks that somebody just wants to be an addict? Nobody wants that in their life, you know? So I think we’ve lost compassion in people and they don’t understand though, they deserve a chance and they don’t understand that these kids aren’t even given a chance.
Dr. Z: And on top of that to hold a child accountable. I mean, like you said, you said something really interesting earlier. The probation officer, the judge were super compassionate. Why, because they work with kids probably. They’re like, listen, you’re not formed yet. You still have a chance. Why should we lock you away and beat on you when you have a chance to be a better person? There’s so many success stories of people who started out in way worse situations than Dylan. And they managed to pull it off through adversity. He wasn’t given a chance because he was murdered.
Cindy: Yeah, he was, and all these other kids were. And they have proof of it sometimes, but the police officers in the past, they’re starting to get better, weren’t doing anything about it. I mean, I had to fight and advocate for them to, I said, this is not an overdose, it was poisoning. He thought he was getting something and he got something else. So it’s like a 13 year old will go and buy some cigarettes. It’s illegal, but say there was fentanyl in it. So should we look at it and say, well, you know, he deserved it. And it’s sad because a lot of these people that advocate and go on, the things that they say, I just think, shame on you. Why would you say something like that? Where’s the compassion? Someone’s lost their child. The accountability is death. They are dead. What more accountability is that? So I think we have to be really understanding and understand, like you said, the disease of addiction, but know they have a chance at recovery, but not with fentanyl. And these kids are dying by taking one pill and sometimes half of a pill. So I just want parents to know that and to stop with the stigma or thinking it can’t happen to them. Because it can, and they need to do what they can so that they’re not in our shoes. You know, I don’t want to be here. I don’t want to be advocating. I wish I could maybe go into my little ignorance thing, my little world that this didn’t affect me. And I think that’s what we say. It’s not your problem until is. And I always say, don’t let it be, you know?
Dr. Z: Yeah, yeah. I’m so glad you could make it up here on such an important day. I’m so glad we could honor Dylan’s memory by trying to do good in the world. I’m so glad you’re such a fierce advocate. I’m also really glad you’re an emergency nurse because there’s an immediate connection.
Cindy: Yeah, yeah, it’s a whole thing we understand.
Dr. Z: We really understand. And thank you, Cindy. Thank you and thank you, Dylan, for helping us teach people about this.
Cindy: Yeah, he was a kind, loving soul. He was a unique character, just so charismatic. And I know he’d want this. He would want to help people. And I know he wouldn’t want me in pain, and he would want other parents to not be in this pain. So I thank you for having me on his birthday. I was hoping I wouldn’t cry so I’ll probably cry on the way home. But I really appreciate it and appreciate you bringing awareness to this situation. And I can’t thank you enough, I’m grateful.
Dr. Z: Thank you, Cindy. Thank you, thank you because I’m gonna go home and have this talk with my kids and I’m gonna keep having this talk with my kids so you’re gonna save lives. And ZPac, little heavy, but so important that you share this. Just share it, leave a comment. Tell us your stories of loved ones. Tell us what you think the solutions are. Tell us what you feel in your elephant about this and what should be done. And please just share the word, spread the word. Talk to your kids, talk to others. If you’re a kid watching this, now you know what’s up, right? All right, guys, I love you and we are out. Thank you, Cindy.
Cindy: Thank you.