When you see money lying on the ground, what is your first reaction? Pick it up, naturally! I mean really, even if it’s only $1 – a dollar is a dollar. That’s what Renee Parsons thought when she picked up a $1 bill off the ground outside a Nashville Mcdonald’s. Unfortunately, it’s possible that the $1 bill ended up putting her in the hospital. This is what happened.
“I Thought I Was Dying”
This past Sunday evening, Renee and her husband Justin took a casual pit-stop at the McDonalds on Highway 70 in Nashville while on their way home. It was there in the parking lot where Renee saw a $1 bill sitting on the ground. Not thinking much of it, she reached down and picked it up. (1)
Just minutes later, Renee’s body began going numb. She felt like she couldn’t breathe. Justin says that her speech then began to slur before she completely passed out.
“I couldn’t even breathe. It’s almost like a burning sensation, if you will, that starts here at your shoulders, and then it just goes down because it’s almost like it’s numbing your entire body,” Renee explained.
Her husband was driving as fast as he could to the nearest hospital. She recalled grabbing Justin’s arm with the same hand she used to pick up the bill, begging him to help her, and telling him her symptoms were getting worse. Not long after, Justin, too, began feeling the effects.
“My lips started going numb and my arm broke out in a rash,” he described.
The couple made it to the hospital where doctors monitored their vitals and helped them with their symptoms. Justin’s lasted for about one hour, whereas Renee’s lasted for four.
An Accidental Overdose
Her doctors told them that what they experienced was an accidental overdose. On what, however, they can’t be sure. This is because the toxicology report doesn’t test for synthetic drugs. The doctors say that the bill was likely used to cut or roll some kind of drug. The family says they feel confident that that drug was the powerful and dangerous opiate, fentanyl.
Was It Really Fentanyl?
There is no doubt that fentanyl is an extremely powerful drug and the dangers of overdose are very real. That being said, this case was not necessarily thanks to the infamous opiate. Medical experts have since debunked the myth that having skin contact with fentanyl can cause overdose – it can’t. Your skin acts as an excellent barrier and does not permit the drug to enter your body in this way. In order to overdose, they say you need to either snort or inject it. (2)
“You know ingesting something is a different story than touching something. Your skin is a really good barrier and will likely protect you and you won’t just randomly overdose from just any medicine you are touching for a short period of time,” said Dr. David Edwards.
The reason why the Parson’s claims of fentanyl overdose are unproven is that no one ever tested the bill in question. Rather, they destroyed it. As already mentioned, the toxicology report doesn’t test for synthetic drugs, so fentanyl would not have shown up in the report.
Read: Inmate who is set to be put to death asks for a delay so he can donate kidney
Fentanyl Is Incredibly Dangerous
Still, however, this isn’t to say that this isn’t an incredibly powerful and dangerous drug. Very tiny amounts of it can be lethal. For reference, a lethal overdose of Heroin is 30 mg for an average-sized adult male. For fentanyl, that dose is just 3 mg. (3)
It is a controlled substance as it does have a place in pain management in the medical world. Unfortunately, illicit drugs such as heroin, methamphetamine, and cocaine are often laced with the drug. In fact, 42% of pills tested contained what experts consider a lethal amount of the substance. According to the CDC, synthetic opioids – primarily fentanyl – are the leading cause of overdose deaths in the United States. Overdose symptoms include (4):
- changes in pupillary size
- cold and clammy skin
- cyanosis – blue discoloration of the skin
- respiratory failure leading to death
If you believe you or someone you are with may be experiencing fentanyl overdose, the faster you get them to a hospital or overdose clinic the better chance they have of surviving.
It Could Have Been A Child
Both Renee and Justin Parsons, with their larger, adult bodies, fully recovered from the terrifying episode. Their first thoughts, however, were of what would have happened if it was a child who picked up that bill instead of Renee. The county sheriff and medical personnel are now telling people that if they see money on the ground to please not pick it up, and also to please remind their children.
“If you are a child and you pick up a dollar bill that’s full of powder and you put your fingers in your mouth I would I say that would be a big risk,” said Dr. Edwards.
Dr. Caleb Alexander professor in epidemiology in medicine at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Health agrees with Dr. Edwards.
“The risks of exposure through the skin are incredibly, incredibly small,” he said. “The risk is quite low, but theoretically, yeah, someone could touch it with their skin, and then if they touch their eyes or their mouth or their nose then theoretically, they could have an exposure that way.”
- “‘I thought I was dying’: Woman hospitalized after picking up $1 bill in Nashville.” WFLA. Stephanie Langston. July 11, 2022.
- “Did a Woman OD from a Fentanyl-Laced Dollar Bill at a Nashville McDonald’s?.” Snopes. Bethania Palma. July 12, 2022.
- “Why fentanyl is deadlier than heroin, in a single photo.” Stat News. Allison Bond September 29, 2016.
- “Facts about Fentanyl.” DEA