Know Your Script: Parents Who Lost Daughter To Opioid Abuse Warn ‘It Can Be Anyone’
SARATOGA SPRINGS, Utah – For many, prescription drug abuse started early. A Saratoga Springs family never dreamed this devastating problem would cost them so much.
The photos of Alyssa Hendricks that lined the walls of her family’s home, belie the pain underneath. “She would light up the room, she would light up a life. She was just so loved,” said Hendricks’ mother Nicole Hendricks, who lives in Saratoga Springs.
Nicole Hendricks said her daughter suffered from depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem. “She said that it helped numb,” Hendricks said. “That she didn’t have to experience that pain that was going on in her mind.”
After a car accident during Alyssa’s senior year of high school in 2015, a doctor prescribed pain pills. “Sixty, with a refill of 60,” her mother said.
Within a month, she was hooked.
“Doubled, tripled, increased the dose on her own,” Hendricks said. Two years later, Alyssa died of a heroin overdose.
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Jeremiah Hendricks, Alyssa’s father said, “We still miss her. It’s hard to still think that she’s gone.” Tears streamed down his face.
Dr. Robert Mendenhall, an addiction medicine specialist with Intermountain Hospital, said prescription drug abuse among teenagers is a common problem. He said teens are abusing opiates most commonly, along with stimulants and sedatives, like anti-anxiety medications. Almost half of teens, 47%, said it’s easy to get prescription drugs from a parent’s medicine cabinet, according to Partnership at Drugfree.org.
“It’s amazing how many teenagers don’t know how dangerous prescription drugs are,” Mendenhall said. Studies have shown that early use of drugs and alcohol increased the risk of addiction and changed the developing brain.
Experts advised the best way to protect your teen is to talk to them about prescription medications. Remind them that taking someone else’s prescription or sharing theirs with others is illegal and dangerous.
Also, stay involved, according to research from the Partnership to End Addiction.
Find opportunities for real conversations. Approach those talks with openness, offering empathy and support. “You sort of avoid lecturing, and you avoid the talking down,” Mendenhall said. “You just kind of talk to them about, you know, ‘Have you been using and if you have been using, why?'”
For the Hendricks family, a memory box holds what their hearts can’t: flowers from Alyssa’s casket and a fabric swatch. “It’s a small piece of lace that was actually cut off the bottom of her dress that we buried her in,” Nicole Hendricks said.
Missing Alyssa and warning parents to be vigilant, Hendricks said, “It’s scary to think that a lot of the people are just one prescription away from becoming an addict, and it can be anyone.”
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