Former drug addict worries about deadly, cheap new super pill

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) – For 15 years Rob Sanchez has been on the front line helping addicts battle drug addiction. He’s seen the problem up close and personal as a therapist, counseling those who are struggling.

For this father of three girls, it’s not a job. It’s a calling. “It’s my way to give back,” Rob told News Channel 8. He knows exactly how difficult it is to face the demons of addiction. He’s done it. He’s lived it. He’s been to the bottom and back.RELATED: Sheriff: ‘Super pill’ is deadly and cheap, becoming big problem

That’s what makes his knowledge so vital and visceral. Rob lived the chaotic, desperate life of an addict. And, he made it to the other side.

The well-known, former top market radio personality, with the smooth, deep voice, had the life of a rock star, so to speak. His career in New York City allowed him to rub elbows with the rich and famous. He enjoyed life in the fast line, one that inevitably accompanies fame in the world of music.

Rob’s memory bank is filled with vibrant stories of one-on-one encounters with the likes of Janet Jackson, Mary J. Blige and Luther Vandross, to name a few. And, for a while, it was fun. It was exciting. But, then, it wasn’t, and Rob’s entire existence was devoted to an unhealthy obsession that was slowly killing him.

“Addicts can’t think about anything else,” he said. “That’s why moms leave their children in cars so they can find drugs. That’s why men rob banks to get money. It takes over your life,” he explained.

Rob eventually hit his bottom. The life he lived was swallowing him whole. He came face to face with what could have been his final moments on Earth. He had a heart attack while out on an all-night bender. But, there was a stronger, more powerful reason to get clean. It involved his own flesh and blood. Rob knew he had to change his ways. His relationship with his girls depended on it. They needed him. They missed their dad. It was the catalyst for this therapist, who would later reinvent himself in a way that transformed his perils into passion for life. He wanted to give back, to guide others down an alternate road and steer them from the path of destruction he took.

“I know addiction,” he said. “I know what that life is all about.”

Now, Rob’s life looks vastly different. His days are still long. But, they are filled with chasing dreams, rather than chasing a high. He’s part of the team at Tranquil Shores, a drug rehabilitation program on Madeira Beach with a boutique-style approach to battling addiction. The rehab takes only 25 people at full capacity, allowing therapists to treat patients with a personalized approach and a low counselor-to-client ratio. Rob has seen a lot in his many years helping addicts. He admits this latest headline is “troubling.”

“It’s scary, you know? Because, I know addicts, right, I know the disease of addiction. And, a lot of addicts are going to gravitate toward that, a new high, a super high,” Rob said.

He is terrified to hear the news that a “super pill” has hit the streets of Pinellas County and claimed nine lives in a matter of weeks. “Every time you use, you’re risking death. This is just a faster way to get there,” Rob told News Channel 8.

The super pill is a super mystery. No one knows where the deadly drug is coming from or who’s making it. The lethal contents of the small white pill are cleverly packaged. It looks just like a Xanax. But, looks can be deceiving. And, as it turns out, deadly. The fake Xanax is mixed with a powerful pain medication called Fentanyl, which is highly addictive. Fentanyl is commonly prescribed to cancer patients.

The combination of Xanax and Fentanyl is so potent that it’s killing people within minutes. Someone out there is taking both medications and using a pill press to create a tiny tablet, one that’s cheap. It’s sold on the streets for less than $5 a pill.

This first-of-its-kind tablet is a mystery for Pinellas County detectives and the Pinellas County medical examiner. Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri called this a public health emergency. He has a message for the people of Pinellas County.

“You don’t have to take a handful of them, all you gotta do is take one and you’re dead,” the sheriff said.

This dangerous new pill claimed the life of a 25-year-old woman in Dunedin over the weekend. Gualtieri is working with other law enforcement agencies, including the St. Petersburg Police Department and Clearwater Police Department, to warn people.

“There’s no other way to put it … You better stop buying this Xanax on the street because nine people are dead,” he said Monday.

Rob’s biggest fear is that addicts will want to sample this super pill, finding the promise of a potent high toxic temptation they can’t resist. “I can see where one addict would tell another, ‘Hey, there’s this new thing going on and we’ve got to try it.’ And that’s what’s scary,” he said.

Continue Reading (Part 3): Doctors warn parents about teens using ‘super pill’ at pharming parties

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