Stacy Hall’s son, Adam, would have been 21 this year. Instead, Adam died on February 17, 2003 from a drug overdose. He was 18.
The night before his tragic death, Adam had gone out with a friend and together they abused prescription medications, along with illegal drugs, to get high. Neither could have imagined that night would be their last.
“The way Adam passed away is burned in my memory to this day,” said Stacy of Mesa, Arizona. “I was paralyzed with fear when the paramedics told me Adam did not survive. I could not believe I had really lost my son.”
“When I went to tell Adam’s siblings that he had died, my 8-year-old daughter looked up at me with tear-filled eyes and asked why we couldn’t just take her brother to the hospital and ‘fix’ him,” said Stacy. “I had no answers for her. Our entire family was devastated.”
Adam – active, popular with friends, engaged in sports and activities – was like so many other teenagers from good families. But one of Adam’s lesser-known extracurricular activities was using drugs; and his mother Stacy was simply unaware of it.
While Adam’s death was caused by a toxic overdose of cocaine, methadone, diazepam and anti-depressants, his drug of choice was the prescription muscle relaxant Soma. Soma is used to treat musculoskeletal pain and muscle spasms, such as in lower back pain. According to Stacy, Adam and his friends got Soma by crossing the border into nearby Mexico and obtaining the drug without much difficulty.
Stacy readily admits that it took her a while to realize that her son was abusing drugs because the typical signs were not evident to her.
“Adam came home one evening apparently drunk – his speech was slurred and he could barely walk or even stand up straight, but there was no alcohol smell,” said Stacy. “Adam wasn’t drunk – he was high on Soma and when I confronted him about his drug use, Adam assured me that he was fine and had everything under control. I wanted so badly to believe him, so I did.”
Later that summer, Adam went on a Boy Scout camping trip and Stacy was startled when she received a call from Scout leaders who discovered over 300 Soma tablets in Adam’s possession. “It soon became clear to her that not only was Adam abusing this prescription medication, he was selling it as well.”
“Only after Adam began coming home high regularly did I begin to see he had a drug problem,” said Stacy. “I just never thought that it could happen to one of my children. He would always tell me ‘Mom, I won’t do it again’ and ‘No, I don’t have a problem.’”
Shortly after this episode, Stacy sent Adam to an intensive drug rehabilitation facility and at the conclusion of the six-week program, she seemed to have her son back.
“When Adam arrived home, I saw my beautiful boy again,” said Stacy. “He was excited to see his family and had a bright outlook for his future. I was convinced that Adam was ‘fixed’ so I stopped drug testing him at home. I gave him back my trust.”
But after just one year, Adam was abusing Soma once again.
“One night I confronted Adam about the Soma tablets I knew he had in his pocket,” said Stacy. “I was angry that he had not learned anything from his rehabilitation program; I was angry because of the negative example he was setting for his siblings and I was angry that he had let himself fall into a pattern of drug use again.”
Stacy took the Soma tablets from Adam and flushed them down the toilet. Visibly upset and looking somewhat terrified, Adam pleaded with his mother not to dispose of the pills. He told her that he ‘owed’ someone for the drugs and was fearful for his safety if he couldn’t deliver them. Stacy could not believe her son’s addiction had led him to such desperation.
After Adam’s death, Stacy’s family continued to battle prescription drug abuse: Stacy’s 19-year-old daughter began abusing prescription drugs as she tried to cope with the loss of her older brother. Though she has struggled with many hurdles, she is now on the road to recovery from a serious addiction to Soma. “But I will never again let my guard down,” said Stacy. “I know that at any time my daughter could go down the very same path Adam did.”
Millions of teenagers are abusing a variety of prescription (Rx) and over-the-counter (OTC) medications to get high. According to the most recent data from the Partnership, approximately one in five teenagers has abused a prescription painkiller to get high, and one in 11 has abused OTC products, like cough medicine. Today’s teens are more likely to have abused an Rx painkiller than they are to have experimented with a variety of illicit drugs – including Ecstasy, cocaine, crack and LSD. The Partnership’s first campaigns addressing the issue are launching soon.
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