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Sophomore died of accidental fentanyl overdose, coroner confirms

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The January death of a Stanford sophomore was caused by an accidental overdose of the powerful narcotic fentanyl, the Santa Clara County Medical Examiner-Coroner’s Office confirmed on Wednesday. 

Eitan Weiner ’22 was found unresponsive in his on-campus residence on Jan. 17 and pronounced dead by the Palo Alto Fire Department that morning. 

The University is “deeply concerned by Eitan’s cause of death,” wrote Stanford spokesperson E.J. Miranda in an email to The Daily. 

“We are increasing our drug and alcohol prevention and education programs, enhancing screening and assessment of students who have engaged in substance abuse, and working with national experts in college substance abuse to develop a comprehensive plan to promote and support student health and well-being,” Miranda wrote.

Though the cause and manner have been determined, the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office is continuing to investigate the circumstances around Weiner’s passing, according to Miranda. 

Weiner’s death was followed, later that day and in the weeks afterwards, by several University-wide emails and alerts warning students about fentanyl — an opioid 80 to 100 times stronger than morphine — and the “dangerous counterfeit prescription drugs in our community,” although the messages made no explicit connection to Weiner at the time. 

“As many of you know, young people are dying in record numbers after consuming drugs containing fentanyl,” wrote Vice Provost for Student Affairs Susie Brubaker-Cole in an email to students on Jan. 31.

Brubaker-Cole’s message warned specifically of circular, blue or light green counterfeit prescription painkillers stamped with the letter M and the number 30 that looked like Percocet or OxyContin, but contained fentanyl. The email told students how to dispose of drugs and reminded them to call 9-1-1 in an emergency, noting that first responders serving Stanford carry Narcan to treat opioid overdoses.

Brubaker-Cole urged students struggling with drug addiction to contact Narcotics Anonymous, their residence dean or Graduate Life Office dean. 

Posters containing similar information were also hung in undergraduate residences. 

Discussion of fentanyl on campus has also reached the Undergraduate Senate, which debated and ultimately tabled a resolution to ask the University to place kits containing Narcan in Stanford dorms. 

“There is not a single issue on this campus that is more important than student life,” said Senator Sam Schimmel ’22, who introduced the resolution, at the Senate’s Feb. 4 meeting.

“The science is settled,” he added. “When we introduce Narcan to communities, those communities are better off.”

However, other senators argued that the resolution left important legal and logistical questions unanswered. After debate, they voted to table the bill to gain more input from the student body, consult with stakeholders and identify the liability of placing the kits in the dorms.

“Someone on this campus died,” said Senator Micheal Brown ’22 at the Feb. 4 meeting. “Let’s not take advantage of that to have some type of political victory for ourselves.” 

At Stanford, Weiner worked at the Hoover Institution and had planned on majoring in history. Passionate about hip-hop and rap music, he was also producing an album. 

Weiner’s family remains deeply involved in the campus community. His father, Amir Weiner, is an associate professor of history, and his mother, Julia Weiner, is an associate vice provost for medical center development. His sister, Ya’el Weiner ’19, majored in human biology.

At Weiner’s memorial service, which drew hundreds to Memorial Church, his family and friends remembered him as a cherished member of his fraternity, Theta Delta Chi (TDX), and his freshman dorm community, Arroyo. 

“Without him, the world is less bright, colors are less vibrant and Stanford is less like home,” said Mià Bahr ’22, his former dormmate in Arroyo. 

But Weiner’s mother also struck a cautionary note, saying she could see her son not only in the ways his friends were “bright, beautiful and full of promise” but also in the ways they were “reckless and brazen.” Weiner’s death was “senseless and stupid,” she said, adding: “Don’t let his memory be meaningless.” 

Contact Erin Woo at erinkwoo ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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Erin Woo '21 is a Managing Editor of News. A communications major and creative writing minor, she plans to pursue a career in journalism. She has also reported for The Mercury News and WNYC. Contact her at erinkwoo 'at' stanford.edu.