Southeast Missouri State University student publication

Kelly Gant: one year later

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Kelly Gant studies athletic training, rides a motorcycle and is about to finish her freshman year at Southeast. She is also a year into recovery from substance abuse.

She found a recovery program she could get behind, and relationships that yield genuine happiness, in place of the artificial kind.

After graduating from high school a year earlier — she said because the pills she was taking made her hate the place — Gant’s substance use grew heavier.

She had no plans, at that time, to attend college. She said her goals had been changed to meet her behavior.

At 16, growing up in West County, a suburb of St. Louis, Gant said she was using xanax casually. The doses grew suddenly stronger and she became dependent on them.

After overdosing on what she believed were pharmaceutical pills, tests at the hospital revealed no xanax. Gant had overdosed on fentanyl.

She was in disbelief at first and confronted the source of the pills. She said the guy was older, with ziplock bags full of hundreds — if not thousands— of pills, he sold to high school kids.

“I remember asking him ‘How are you getting these?’” Gant said. “He kind of laughed at me and said, ‘I’m making them.’”

Gant said the dealer had acquired a high-end pill press on the dark web, and used it to create identical clones of xanax and other prescription medications, with fentanyl as the primary ingredient.

“There were white ladders, they were 1 mg, and probably had no xanax in them; the yellow school busses were 2 mgs and he’d put, like, 20 percent xanax powder in them, and the rest would be fentanyl. And then there were the green monsters,” Gant said.

She said the counterfeits were indiscernible from the real thing in appearance.

“It was something totally different, but most kids wouldn’t even know,” Gant said. “Normal xanax you could take like 3 or 4 bars and you’re not gonna die or anything, but you take 3 or 4 of these bars that have fentanyl in them, which is like synthetic heroin, you can get really messed up.”

The counterfeit fentanyl pills became synonymous with physical dependence.

“He’d sell to a kid, give them a deal on a couple, so they’d take one, take one the next day and want one the next day,” she said. “It definitely did it for everyone, and all these kids thought they were just addicted to xanax.”

Gant became friends with the dealer, and said she was fascinated by the illegal press operation he maintained with his knowledge of the dark web.

“I couldn’t really complain because It was better than xanax, it was stronger,” Gant said. “[The dealer] said, ‘This is better, you’re getting more than your money's worth so you should be thanking me that you’re getting something better.’”

Three other people had been hospitalized for overdose on his fentanyl pills, Gant said, before he began feeling guilty. When two people died from the drugs he’d sold them, he said he’d stop.

But the profit margin he’d set up selling cheap fentanyl as expensive pharmaceuticals was its own addiction.

“He was making over 100K in less than a year,” she said. “He was like, ‘Well they’re gonna get it from someone, I'd rather them get it from me.”

Gant said the dealer was never brought to light for his crimes.

Her own criminal record, Gant said, is clean considering the number of charges brought against her when she was using pills.

“That would not happen to anyone else unless they had money to get them out of it,” Gant said.

She joined an outpatient treatment program, in lieu of a court sentencing, but said she wasn’t committed. It took a friend, and former user’s urgence to try a young person’s anonymous recovery group, in St. Louis, for her to realize she wanted to make a change.

Weekend young person’s meetings continue to be a source of strength for her, and the relationships she said, are helping her to better herself. She sought for a similar recovery group demographic in Cape Girardeau, but was unsuccessful.

She said older people in recovery generally do give the best advice, but that they’re sometimes too far removed from their addiction to relate.