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Robert De Niro’s grandson could be the latest fentanyl casualty, according to mother

Robert De Niro’s daughter Drena said that her son Leandro De Niro Rodriguez likely died last weekend after taking pills that were laced with fentanyl — a claim that, if true, would make him the latest high-profile person to die in what authorities say is a drug overdose epidemic that’s been driven by the availability of the highly potent synthetic opioid.

“Someone sold him fentanyl laced pills that they knew were laced yet still sold them to him,” Drena De Niro alleged on Instagram Wednesday, in response to someone asking how her son, 19, died over the weekend, Page Six reported. Drena De Niro railed against all the people who illegally sell and buy fentanyl. “My son is gone forever,” she said.

Leandro De Niro Rodriguez, 19, was found dead Sunday in a New York City apartment where he was staying. Reports  by TMZ and the Daily Mail said that authorities are investigating his death as a possible overdose and that drugs and drug paraphernalia were found near his body, reports said.

Robert DeNiro’s 18 year old grandson, Leondro, found dead alone in a Wall Street apt with a plate of “white powdery substance” nearby. RIP 🕊😔

— suzy (@Suzy_1776) July 3, 2023

It probably will take weeks for authorities to determine whether he died of a drug overdose and which drugs were involved. Sadly, Drena De Niro’s assertion that her son may have unknowingly ingested fentanyl would would be consistent with many documented drug overdoses that involve the opioid.

The drug is approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use in serious pain relief, for example by cancer patients or people suffering a severe injury. The drug is approximately 100 times more potent than morphine and 50 times more potent than heroin.

Most opioid overdoses don’t involve fentanyl that’s administered in medically appropriate settings, according to CNN. They are due to fentanyl that’s sold illegally and that comes from clandestine laboratories.

Because fentanyl is so potent, taking even a small amount can be deadly, said Leana Wen, an emergency physician and professor of health policy and management at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health. In an interview with CNN, Wen said people may not be aware they are taking it because drug dealers often mix it with other illicit substances, such as heroin, benzodiazepines, cocaine, MDMA  and methamphetamines.

Wen also said that fentanyl can be made into pill form, and it can be mixed in with other counterfeit pills. “Some people may think they are taking a less potent opioid such as oxycodone, but they are actually getting fentanyl,” she added.

Fentanyl has been implicated in a number of high-profile deaths in recent years, notably Prince in 2016, rapper Lil Peep in 2017, rapper Mac Miller in 2018 and “The Wire” actor Michael K. Williams in 2021. Last month, the Los Angeles County Medical-Examiner Coroner’s office determined that the death of former child actor Adam Rich — who was best known for his work on the 1970s TV show “Eight is Enough” — was due to the effects of fentanyl and ruled his death accidental, the Associated Press reported. 

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