After losing her grandson to fentanyl poisoning in 2021, Martha Johnson has made a habit of asking young people if they know about the deadly drug.  

“That’s what I feel right now, that when I see a teenager or young adult, I need to tell them,” Johnson said. The young people who have been poisoned by fentanyl, “they didn’t want to die.”

Johnson and her husband, Lane Johnson, traveled about 180 miles from their home just outside San Antonio to attend the Take Our Border Back Convoy rally in Quemado, Texas, on Saturday. Standing in the crowd of several hundred, the Johnsons held a sign with their grandson’s picture on it, the words “Forever 25” and “KILLED BY FENTANYL” written below a photo of the young man. The rally marked the end of a five-day trucker convoy from Virginia Beach, Virginia, to Texas in support of border security.  

“The border, yes, it needs to be secured,” the grandmother said, adding, “It needs to be secure because the fentanyl is coming in, and it’s killing our kids right where we live.”  

The Johnsons’ grandson, Jake Paez, began struggling emotionally after his mother died from breast cancer about eight years ago. At about the same time, the young man also got his wisdom teeth removed, was prescribed painkillers, and became addicted to the drug, Lane Johnson told The Daily Signal.  

In 2017, the Johnsons’ grandson came to live with them, and “he was really, really battling and doing a great job with it,” Lane Johnson said. As he continued to struggle with the loss of his mom, the young man “developed anxiety” and “on occasion, he would self-medicate,” he said.  

In April 2021, Paez asked a friend, who was dealing prescription drugs, if she had anything for anxiety. He took the pill he was given, not knowing it contained fentanyl. The young person who gave their grandson the pill likely did not know it had fentanyl in it, either, according to Martha Johnson.

“That’s why I try to tell these kids, even if it’s a friend, don’t take anything from anybody,” she said.  

The year Paez was poisoned, Customs and Border Protection reported seizing more than 11,200 pounds of fentanyl. In fiscal year 2023, CBP seized more than 27,000 pounds, the largest seizure amount on record. As little as 2 milligrams of fentanyl is enough to be potentially lethal to the average adult.  

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, fentanyl is the leading cause of death for Americans ages 18 to 45.  

The border needs to be secured because of the fentanyl, “plus, we can’t just have it open,” Martha Johnson said, adding that her own mother immigrated to America from Mexico legally.  

“We’re not trying to say, ‘You can’t come.’ No! But just like everything else … we got to make sure what’s coming into the United States,” she explained.

“We just need to have our border secure, and we will welcome [immigrants],” she said, “but do it the right way.” 

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