Authorities skeptical of woman’s claim of fentanyl-laced $1 bill

A Kentucky couple is speaking out after the wife said she overdosed after picking up a dollar bill.
Published: Jul. 12, 2022 at 2:39 AM CDT
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV/Gray News) - A Kentucky couple is speaking out after the wife claims she overdosed on fentanyl after picking up a dollar bill at McDonald’s, but authorities are skeptical.

Renee Parsons said picking up a dollar bill Sunday afternoon at a McDonald’s in Nashville landed her in the hospital. She believes it was a fentanyl-laced dollar bill, and she had a bad reaction.

“It is like your body is just shutting down,” she said.

Renee Parsons and her husband Justin, of Lexington, Kentucky, were on their way to a work conference in Dallas with two of their children when they stopped at McDonald’s.

“As I was walking inside, there was a dollar on the floor just hanging out, so I picked it up, not thinking anything of it,” Renee Parsons told WSMV.

Within 10 minutes of picking up the dollar, she said her body went numb. She said she could barely talk or breathe before passing out.

“She hadn’t said anything for a while, then she said, ‘Justin, I am sorry. I love you.’ Then she just quit talking,” Justin Parsons said.

The family drove to St. Thomas Ascension Hospital. Paperwork there showed Renee Parsons had an accidental drug overdose.

The couple believes the dollar she picked up was laced with fentanyl. Her husband said he even started to feel symptoms after his wife touched his arm.

“What I do know is how I felt, what happened. It can’t be made up,” Renee Parsons said.

WSMV talked to Dr. Rebecca Donald, a fentanyl expert at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, about the incident.

“I think it is really unlikely the substance this lady got into her system is fentanyl based on the symptoms she had,” Donald said.

Donald is an assistant professor of anesthesiology and pain medicine at Vanderbilt. She said skin-to-skin contact is not a way people are exposed to drugs at levels that would cause them harm.

“It is much more likely for her to have a reaction if she had inadvertently rubbed her nose and exposed that drug to some of the blood vessels in her nose or licked her fingers or rubbed her eyes,” she said.

Donald said it is possible for the drug to get aerosolized and inhaled.

“That would take more of a volume of drug or quantity of drug,” she said. “It is certainly not impossible for that to happen, but one would think it would be a significant amount that you could see it on the hands and dollar bill to get into the air system.”

Donald said someone’s medical history and medications they are taking may also contribute to symptoms. She said fentanyl contaminating anything is a safety threat and could be life-threatening.

Police responded to the hospital on Sunday. A spokesperson told WSMV that officers did not see any sort of residue on the dollar bill, but it was not tested for fentanyl since no one is being charged.

Police are still going to destroy the dollar bill.

Last month, the Perry County Sheriff’s Office said there were two separate incidents in which meth and fentanyl were found in folded dollar bills on a gas station floor. Police said this is not an issue they are seeing in Nashville.

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