From Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey:
This week, I turn the PDFNJ blog over to New Jersey resident Don Riebel, whose son, Colin, died of a heroin overdose at age 22 in 2013. Don and his wife, Bobbie Lynn are featured, along with Dr. Andrew Kolodny, in an episode of Full Frame Close Up: Prescribing Pain, that was released by CGTN America this week talking about Colin’s story and the New Jersey legislation that they believe could have saved their son’s life.
On Nov. 23, 2013, I found my son in his bed not breathing. I immediately began giving him CPR until the paramedics arrived only to be told that they could not revive him. He was gone.
Until that fateful day, Colin had refrained from drug use for two months after being released from rehab 48 hours prior. Since age 15, Colin a former community/high school athlete struggled with opioid addiction. His love of sports would play the starring role in his untimely death.
Colin blew his rotator cuff playing baseball his freshmen year in high school, which resulted in surgery and a recuperation period that included a regimen of Percocet. During his sophomore year in high school, Colin participated in the sport he loved the most: football. In a span of three years, he tore his ACL three times, and each injury required surgery, bone grafting, physical therapy and pain management.
Pain management was a continuous regimen of Percocet. It wasn’t until Colin came to us and admitted to having a problem that we realized he needed help. His desire for that euphoric effect outweighed his love of sports and slowly began to take control of his everyday life.
The signs were not there in the beginning. Colin didn’t lose his charming demeanor, sense of humor and overall kindness for which he was known. It was first recommended to us that Colin would need outpatient rehab, which he consistently attended for about six months. Outpatient rehab turned into inpatient rehab, and after several attempts at remaining abstinent — along with more stints in rehab — his opioid addiction eventuality transitioned into heroin use. From there, he entered a downward spiral that no one saw coming.
Heroin took my son’s life at age 22. It took his dreams and our dreams that one day he would be in recovery and able to tell his story in his own words. This epidemic has stolen too many lives and has forced parents to bury their children. A child’s death is life out of order.
Addiction affects the whole family and through that experience our intent is help educate parents so no other parent feels this pain. If only I, as a parent, had known the dangers, the outcome would have certainly been much different. We have the responsibility to advocate for our children by making sure that we are present and participating in our child’s medical treatment. Ask questions and, most importantly, question your provider about prescriptions and whether or not they can become addictive. Just do not accept that the only way to effectively manage your child’s pain is through these types of drugs. Ask for alternatives.