CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – By the time you watch the above video or read this article, another person in this country will have overdosed on fentanyl.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a Fentanyl overdose occurs in America every five to eight minutes. One Lowcountry father and educator has made it his mission to put a name and face to that chilling statistic.
Dr. Alan Shao was the Dean of Business at the College of Charleston for over a decade. His son, Alan Shao II, graduated from CofC while his father was still employed. Being Cougars was just one of the many things they shared.
“He and I were as close as a father and son could be,” Shao said. They often bowled together and talked about typical father and son things like racing and Alan’s plans for the future.
But on January 31, 2023, Shao got a phone call that nothing could prepare him for. Alan had fatally overdosed on fentanyl alone in his apartment. Shao said that he knew about his son’s battle with addiction and supported him in every way he could, but fentanyl was a different kind of beast.
“In his autopsy, it came out that what he took was 100% fentanyl. There was no cocaine in it. There was no heroin in it. It was 100% fentanyl,” Shao said.
Just two milligrams of fentanyl can be lethal, according to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).
Now, Shao focuses his efforts on bringing attention to the crisis in hopes of helping other families avoid tragedy. He said it’s something that needs to be destigmatized so that people are not afraid to seek help.
Shao’s efforts are getting noticed. He wrote a poem for Alan, which he read at the funeral. U.S. Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) also read the poem to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Shao said that there is nothing to be embarrassed about and he wants to be a conduit for anyone who thinks they may need help, but aren’t sure how to go about getting it.
“My son has every opportunity for me to help him and he knew that. Think of all the other people that may not have as much support at home,” Shao said. “I’m going to do all I can to help and if anybody ever wants to talk to me, whether it’s individually or whether it’s as a group, I’m there. I mean, I’m committed to that for the rest of my life.”
To reduce the number of fentanyl overdoses nationwide, the CDC recommends expanding distribution of Naloxone and overdose prevention education, expanding awareness about and access to treatment for substance use disorders, intervening early with high-risk people, and improving the early detection of overdoses to facilitate a more effective response.