A Nevada widow whose husband died from an accidental fentanyl overdose is shedding light on the harrowing impact of the drug.
Jacob Wade, 26, a former Marine, had been a devoted family man to his wife, Britain Tomlin, and children, Walker and Blakely, when he accidentally overdosed on a drug cocktail laced with fentanyl in February.
It’s unclear what other drugs Mr Wade was taking, but accidental overdoses involving fentanyl have become an increasingly common tale in the US. Many victims don’t even know they’re taking it.
Ms Tomlin is now warning against the dangers of the drug, which kills one American every eight minutes.
‘Fentanyl robbed us of a wonderful man – a devoted husband, a loving son, and a caring father,’ she said.
Jacob Wade, 26, a former Marine, had been a devoted family man to his wife, Britain Tomlin, and children, Walker and Blakely, when he accidentally overdosed on a drug cocktail laced with fentanyl in February
Mr Wade was an aspiring entrepreneur who spent his free time fishing, hiking, and riding his dirt bike. He also regularly volunteered in his community, such as building homes for families in need
‘I’m determined to raise awareness about the devastating fentanyl and opioid crisis, urging the government to step up its efforts in aiding those grappling with addiction.’
‘We need more resources to support individuals battling substance abuse and to assist their families.’
Ms Tomlin and Mr Wade met in 2018 after he returned home from the military. The two shared an ‘instant connection.’
‘Before we knew it, we were married and embracing the arrival of our precious kids,’ Ms Tomlin said.
Mr Wade was an aspiring entrepreneur who spent his free time fishing, hiking, and riding his dirt bike. He also regularly volunteered in his community, such as building homes for families in need.
But he also had a history of drug use that started when he was a teenager. It started with marijuana before escalating to harder drugs.
‘Throughout our relationship, he put in tremendous effort to break free from his addiction, and there were moments when he believed he had conquered it. But then, he would fall back into old patterns, and the cycle would restart,’ Ms Tomlin said.
‘Drug dependency had transformed Jacob into a different version of himself – someone who no longer recognized the person he had become.’
‘The actions he took while under the influence haunted him when he was sober, casting a shadow of sadness and self-disappointment.’
In the above graph, the height of each bar shows the total number of drug overdose deaths occurring in that year. As overdose deaths rose in the United States from 38,329 in 2010 to 106,699 in 2021, the percentage involving both fentanyl and stimulants rose from 0.6 percent to 32.3 percent
Deaths caused by fentanyl in the US surged in the 2010s. At the start of the decade, 2,666 Americans died of a fentanyl overdose. This figure shot up to 19,413 by 2016. Covid made the situation worse, with a record 72,484 deaths recorded in 2021
The Department of Homeland Security has declared fentanyl the ‘single greatest challenge the US faces as a country.’
The potent synthetic opioid is 50 times stronger than heroin and 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine. It is used by doctors for patients in serious pain or with terminal illnesses.
It is cheap, highly addictive, relatively easy to smuggle into the US, and cost-effective for dealers to mix it into their supplies, which saves them money and can extend or boost the high that users experience.
But it takes a vanishingly small dose of fentanyl to cause a fatal overdose. Just two milligrams, the equivalent of five grains of salt, is enough to cause death.
Because it is cut into other popular drugs, many people who die of overdoses do not know they are taking fentanyl. Fentanyl has also been partially blamed for America’s sharp fall in life expectancy over the past three years.
It’s now found in everything from cocaine to molly and street benzodiazepines like Xanax.
The opioid being cut with virtually every street drug in the country killed a record 75,000 Americans in 2021 in the latest numbers, the equivalent of 1,500 lives lost weekly.
And deaths from fentanyl-laced drugs have risen 50-fold in just over a decade.
It was also linked to the death of Euphoria star Angus Cloud, 25, who died earlier this year from an accidental overdose of fentanyl, cocaine, and meth.
‘It’s so common to think addiction is just a choice. How could the people we love willingly go down that path of using drugs or risking their lives? They have so much to live for, and their choices affect many others,’ Ms Tomlin said.
Angus Cloud, the 25-year-old Euphoria actor, was found unresponsive in his family home in Oakland, California, on July 31, and pronounced dead on the scene by responders. This week, his death was ruled an accidental overdose from cocaine, meth, and fentanyl
‘We tend to label those who make such choices as selfish, self-destructive, irresponsible, and reckless. But the truth is that addiction doesn’t stick to any specific type. It doesn’t care if you’re strong or weak, selfless or selfish, kind or heartless. It can hit anyone.’
Ms Tomlin said that her relationship with Mr Wade was strained at the time of his death. She had recently moved out with the kids and was temporarily staying with family.
On the day he died, he had stopped responding to her texts. Mr Wade’s parents found him unresponsive.
‘I couldn’t go upstairs as paramedics were still trying to help him. My kids were in the car with our neighbors, witnessing the police, ambulances, and fire trucks gathered around our home,’ Ms Tomlin said.
‘Even today, my daughter, who was just three years old, remembers how her daddy was put on a stretcher and loaded into an ambulance.’
At the hospital, doctors informed her that Mr Wade had passed.
‘I fell apart, dreading how to break the news to our children and his parents,’ Ms Tomlin said.
‘I spent about an hour with him, and before leaving, I took a necklace I had given him and left a bracelet with his mom. I whispered my final words and left, carrying the weight of that heart-wrenching day with me.’
After her husband’s death, Ms Tomlin took to social media to bring awareness to fentanyl and drug overdoses.
“If you know someone struggling, don’t wait – take action,’ she said.
‘Show them kindness and honesty, reach out as soon as possible, and keep checking in. Life’s too short to let fear of judgment hold us back. Yes, my grief is always there, heavy and strong.’
‘I’ll carry Jacob with me wherever I go. But you know what? Despite all that pain, I’ve found ways to grow and experience real happiness.’
‘My life isn’t done yet. Jacob’s memory lives on, cherished by everyone who loved him.’
Earlier this year, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Narcan, the nasal spray that rapidly reverses opioid overdoses.
The medicine can now be sold over the counter without a prescription.