A couple in Nashville continues to mourn their son two years after his death. Josh Holton, the deceased, was a 20-year-old amateur photographer.
He died of a drug overdose after buying a counterfeit pill on the dark web.
Rachel and Michael Blado, the parents, recently gave an account of the events that led to Holton’s death.
Rachel narrated that for a while, her son had been using Xanax pills to self-medicate. The victim was trying to deal with his insomnia.
However, Holton eventually bought a drug that killed him. The deceased went on the dark web and ordered Xanax pills.
Unfortunately, what he received was far much more dangerous than Xanax.
The drug dealer delivered pills containing fentanyl. According to Holton’s mother, he had little experience with drugs.
Holton, therefore, had no idea that he had received the wrong pills. He took an excessive amount of the drug by accident and lost his life.
The couple explained that the victim began to take his pills after his biological father died. In 2015, his father drowned, leaving Holton devastated.
Since the death of Doug Brown, his biological father, Holton had been quietly suffering. Holton died a year after Brown’s demise.
The Day of Holton’s Death
Holton’s parents recently shared their son’s story with The Tennessean.
On the day of Holton’s death, his mother woke up at 4:32 a.m. While she was reading her Bible outside her bedroom, Rachel heard a faint noise coming from downstairs.
She thought it was unusual, seeing that the house was typically quiet at this hour.
Rachel, thus, went downstairs to find out what had caused the noise. It was coming from the basement, which the family had turned into Holton’s bedroom.
Holton’s TV was on and streaming TED Talks, a show that he would watch before going to bed every night.
Holton’s mother decided to take a peek and make sure everything was okay. She noticed that her son’s sitting posture was strange.
Holton looked as though he had fallen asleep in a bent position.
Rachel got into the room and attempted to wake her son.
She shook his shoulder while calling his name, but Holton did not respond and his body felt cold.
As she kept shaking him, Holton’s head turned. His mother noticed that he had thick mucus coming out of his mouth and nose. It was at this point that Rachel realized he was dead.
Rachel ran out of Holton’s room wailing. She collapsed as she tried to get back up the stairs.
Her husband came down the stairs and found Rachel, who only managed to scream that Holton was gone.
Moments later, the paramedics came to the house and confirmed that Holton was dead.
They further said that Holton died in the middle of the night due to a drug overdose. The paramedics then called a Nashville Police Department detective to investigate the matter.
The room was in a mess. Furthermore, there was a blue-gray powder on the table and a $20 bill which Holton rolled into a straw.
Holton’s step father called three of the victim’s best friends and informed them of what had happened. They arrived at the scene and went in to see their friend’s body.
The detective questioned Holton’s friends on whether they had any idea what he may have consumed. One of the friends revealed that it might have been Xanax.
Although Holton died in September 2016, the investigations went on until this year. The police determined that the victim had died of a drug overdose.
However, they stated that there was no prosecutable crime associated with this death.
The police asserted that the drug that killed Holton was not Xanax. The information gathered from interviews, police documents as well as personal emails and text messages indicated that Holton had taken counterfeit drugs.
The investigation showed that instead of the Xanax pills that Holton had ordered, he received fentanyl. This drug is 50 times deadlier than heroin.
Furthermore, the autopsy results indicated that Holton had taken fentanyl. The powdered drug that the police found in Holton’s room was also Xanax, as the examination results provided.
Rachel showed the autopsy results to Holton’s friends, who had visited her house on the Thanksgiving of 2016. The friends’ reaction indicated that they had no clue about the counterfeit drugs.
The Dangers of Counterfeit Drugs
Rachel took it upon herself to find out what killed her son. She went through Holton’s computer for information.
Rachel also talked to Holton’s friend to find out what some of them were too afraid to tell the authorities.
Holton’s mother shared what she found with the aim of shedding light into the effects of counterfeit drugs.
She stated that Holton found a drug on the dark web but did not know it was dangerous. It was this mistake that cost him his life.
Other than Holton, several more people have died of counterfeit drug overdoses in Tennessee, according to a report [PDF] from public health organization Partnership for Safe Medicines.
The problem was also recently captured in an annual report [PDF] from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation which specifically names a new trend in drug trafficking involving counterfeit pills being traded over the dark web.
Investigations representing this trend are becoming more prevalent in Tennessee, the report adds.
Across the U.S., according to data from the Partnership for Safe Medicines, 45 states have documented cases of overdoses involving counterfeit Xanax or opioid pills that actually contained fentanyl.
However, it is possible that there are more victims of counterfeit drugs than research reveals. In most cases, only the consumer is aware of the actual drug they thought they were taking.
Shabbir Shafdar, the executive director of the Partnerships for Safe Medicines, told local media that there are all kinds of fake drugs in the market, including cancer medicine and painkillers.
Shafdar indicated that there had been many more victims who tried to buy Xanax, only to end up taking counterfeit dark market drugs.
Shafdar further revealed that most of these counterfeit pills contain fentanyl. The drug manufacturers obtain these opioids at a low price from Mexico or China.
Holton’s Experience with the Dark Web and Drugs
Holton first learned about the dark web in 2015. He had watched an episode of TED Talks in which Jamie Bartlett, a journalist, talked about his book “The Dark Net,” which provides an inside look into the hidden web and how it works.
In his presentation, Bartlett talked about the purchase of drugs on this section of the internet.
He spoke about the customer service, innovation and capitalization that the dark web has helped achieve.
Although the journalist praised the privacy of the dark web, he warned that he did not encourage the purchase of illicit drugs.
One of Holton’s friends admitted that they had bought drugs online through the dark web. He said that Holton had learned how to make such purchases from the TED Talks episode.
According to Holton’s family, the victim made two purchases on the dark web. The first one was in August 2016.
This time, Holton and his friend made the order for Xanax on a now-defunct darknet market named AlphaBay. The federal government shut this marketplace down back in 2017.
The first time, Holton received the exact drug he ordered. He consumed the drugs and had no problems.
Holton and his friend made the second order in September 2016. Holton died after he took this drug.
According to Holton’s friend, the victim offered him a pill from the second order. He admitted that he took the drug, but it only put him to sleep.
The drug had a Xanax stamp. The deceased’s friend confirmed that it was identical to a Xanax pill he had earlier purchased from a pharmacist.
He expressed his uncertainty regarding whether or not he had taken a real Xanax pill.
Holton lived in Maryland before he turned eight years old, when he moved with his mother and stepfather to Nashville, Tennessee.
He attended Lighthouse Christian School, then graduated high school after being home schooled for a period.
Holton then enrolled at Middle Tennessee State University and later got a full-time job at the Smyrna Nissan plant.
Holton also took some classes at Nashville State Community College.
Holton was very close to his biological father, who still lived in Maryland after 2008. Brown owned a restaurant in Maryland. Holton often spent the summer with him.
His biological father inspired him to work towards becoming an entrepreneur. Holton’s fields of interest were the stock market, real estate and graphic design.
Additionally, he had a great love for photography and wished to one day start a business in the same.
Holton had a hard time coping with Brown’s death. This loss caused him to suffer from intense insomnia and exhaustion.
Holton was highly curious and often sought more knowledge. He loved to have deep conversations about diverse topics. This inquisitive nature led him to TED Talks.
He died the night before he took his advanced Microsoft Excel class. Holton was hopeful that taking this class could help him get a promotion at his place of work.
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