Alex’s Story

Oct 18, 2013 | Guest Author

Allisyn Leppla
Cuyahoga County Board of Health, Ohio
October 18, 2013

For Alex’s parents, rural Ohio seemed like the perfect location to raise a family. In its rolling hills and vast farmland laid the safety and security of a small town setting. The schools were filled with neighbors’ children and residents did not think twice about leaving the doors to their homes unlocked. That is, until their teenage son became an opiate addict.

Alex excelled at almost everything he devoted himself to. He was heavily involved in athletics, band, honors society, and his church youth group. One afternoon during football practice, Alex suffered a back injury. The injury persisted for several weeks and after seeing his physician, he was prescribed a four-week supply of Vicodin. Alex took the Vicodin as instructed and realized that he felt good, really good. He shared this news with several of his teammates and pretty soon they were offering him money to try a few of his pain pills. Why not? After all, they were prescribed by a doctor. Alex was out of pills and needing to obtain more. He asked his doctor for a prescription renewal but was denied when they realized there still should be pills remaining on the original prescription. In a panic, Alex began calling his friends asking how he could get more pills. Within two hours, he was able to purchase a week’s supply of Vicodin from a friend who stole it from his home medicine cabinet. Once that supply ran out, he tried Oxycontin. After Oxycontin, he made the switch to heroin. Heroin!

Alex’s parents began to notice a change in his demeanor but brushed it off as typical teenage behavior. After all, their son was an honor student from a good, Christian home. One Sunday afternoon, Alex’s parents received a phone call they never imagined they would get. It was the local police department saying they had Alex in custody on possession of a narcotic. Their loving son was now facing felony charges.

Fortunately for Alex, our community in Cuyahoga County has a drug court program. This allowed Alex to enter into an intensive treatment program while serving his jail sentence. Upon successful completion of the drug court requirements, his felony charges would be dismissed. Although he wasn’t aware of it at the time, the drug court program very well may have saved his life. Amazingly, Alex has been sober for two years and remains an active participant of the drug court program

Far too many teenagers believe they are casually experimenting with drugs only to find themselves opiate addicts. This is an addiction that is extremely difficult and costly to overcome. The death rates from this rising epidemic are now the leading cause of accidental death in the state of Ohio. Several efforts are taking place at both the state and local level to combat this problem. By increasing awareness, it is the hope that the eyes of individuals will be opened to the realities of prescription drug abuse while empowering them to consider choices that can be made to avoid addiction.

For Alex’s parents, rural Ohio seemed like the perfect location to raise a family. In its rolling hills and vast farmland laid the safety and security of a small town setting. The schools were filled with neighbors’ children and residents did not think twice about leaving the doors to their homes unlocked. That is, until their teenage son became an opiate addict.


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About Guest Author

NACCHO periodically invites guest authors to write first-person accounts of their work in public health. To submit your own story for consideration, please visit our form.

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