Alton Banks, 10, was not feeling well when he returned home from a community pool in a Miami, Florida, neighborhood on June 23.
According to the Miami Herald, the young boy started vomiting at his Overtown house. Then, later that evening, he was found unconscious.
The paramedics were called, and Alton was rushed to Jackson Memorial Hospital. Sadly, he was pronounced dead at the scene.Screenshot/NBC Miami
CBS Miami reports that preliminary toxicology tests, conducted by the Miami-Dade Medical Examiner, show Alton had traces of a drug known as fentanyl in his system.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse describes fentanyl as a synthetic opioid drug that is 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that it is hundreds of times more potent than heroin.Drug Enforcement Administration
In medical settings, fentanyl is used to treat severe pain, typically from cancer. It can be absorbed orally, through skin contact, or through inhalation, though it is usually prescribed from a hospital as a patch or a lozenge.
The CDC reports that while most prescribed use of fentanyl is through dermal absorption, illicit use is usually inhaled in powder form.
— DEA HQ (@DEAHQ) July 17, 2017
CDC data suggest that there has been a dramatic increase in the use of synthetic and illegally manufactured opioids, specifically fentanyl, over the past few years. Fatalities caused by synthetic opioids have risen by 72 percent between 2014 and 2015.
Fentanyl has also been found cut into other street drugs, which can be a deadly combination.
Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle told CBS Miami that the preliminary report shows Alton had likely touched or inhaled the fentanyl mixed with heroin:
“It appears that he somehow came into contact with a fentanyl and heroin mixture, and if that’s the case, then it’s everyone’s worst nightmare.”
The Drug Enforcement Administration estimates that two milligrams of fentanyl is a lethal dosage for most people.Drug Enforcement Administration
Lewis Nelson, MD, a medical toxicologist, told Forbes earlier this year that the danger with cutting fentanyl into other drugs is that the substance is extremely potent. Therefore the margin of error for taking the drug is very small:
“A milligram of a drug is a the size of a pinhead. A microgram is thousand times less than that […] Fentanyl is always mixed into something else. So you’re putting a lot of trust in your dealer. If you make a batch with just a little more, then you see overdose increases in spots in city.”
Authorities do not believe the fentanyl came from Alton’s home. It’s uncertain where Alton came in contact with the substance at this time, though investigators presume he came into contact with the drug at the pool or during the walk back home, State Attorney Rundle explained:
“He was out playing, like we want all our children to do. It’s unclear whether it was at the pool or on the walk home. We’re anxiously hoping that someone comes forward to help us solve this horrific death.”
Overtown is considered “ground zero” for the opioid crisis in the Miami area. NBC News reached out to the Miami-Dade Medical Examiner for a comment; they were told the examiners are still testing samples.
Alton is being remembered by friends and family as a fifth-grade student at Frederick Douglas Elementary who enjoyed watching Cam Newton play football and wanted to grow up to become an engineer.
Anyone with information regarding Alton’s case is encouraged to call the Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers at (305) 471-TIPS.