Home Health My Son Died of a Heroin Overdose: Here’s What I Wish I Knew and How You Can Save Your Own Child

My Son Died of a Heroin Overdose: Here’s What I Wish I Knew and How You Can Save Your Own Child

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Alex Roos died of a heroin overdose at age 25 in 2015. His drug use skyrocketed during the summer after he graduated from college.

If it can happen to my family, it can happen to yours.

That’s what a New Jersey mother told DailyMail.com she wants other parents to know after her 25-year-old son died of a heroin overdose on Mother’s Day.

Patricia Roos’s son Alex was found dead on the street in Newark, New Jersey, 20 miles from his home, succumbing to his three-year battle with drug addiction that led to 12 stints in rehab and four stays in sober living homes. .

Like thousands of other victims of the opioid epidemic, Alex came from a good family. She was born to two sociologists who settled into a pleasant middle-class life in New Jersey. He was athletic and intelligent and graduated in biology.

Ms Roos spoke to DailyMail.com about the signs she wishes she had known to look for that could have saved her only child in the hope of saving other families from a similarly devastating experience.

Alex Roos died of a heroin overdose at age 25 in 2015. His drug use skyrocketed during the summer after he graduated from college.

Alex was a college athlete in baseball. He was sensitive, loved music, especially electronic dance music, and was particularly close to his grandmother, whose passing, Mrs. Roos, surely had a major influence on his drug use during his first summer home after college. .

He had plans to return to Rutgers University to complete a master’s degree in business, but those plans fell apart as his drug use continued.

Just days after returning to New Jersey in May 2015, after spending years bouncing from rehab to rehab in Florida, Alex was ready to head to his 13th recovery center. Instead, he was found dead in a vacant lot frequented by heroin users.

During his years-long battle with heroin addiction, his longest period of sobriety was about five months. But each time she relapsed, “she became more and more horrible,” Mrs. Roos said.

“On his 25th birthday, we had to open the door and go in, and I thought he was brain dead, because he was breathing very hard and something gray was coming out of his mouth,” he told this website, adding: “They brought him in.” . I went back several times (on) Narcan and the last time was what would have been her 13th rehab and she refused to go in.

Ms. Roos knows her situation is not unique and channeled her pain into advocacy and writing, eventually publishing a book about her experience and failures in the recovery care infrastructure called Surviving Alex: A Mother’s Story of Love, Loss, and Addiction.

She told DailyMail.com: ‘Every day when I sat down to write, I thought I was writing for people like me who are going through this because I want them to know that I hear them. They are not alone.

‘I want people to know that if it happened to my family, it can happen to any family, right? Because I think people don’t believe it can happen to them. And it can.’

In her book and in statements to this website, she revealed signs that other parents can pay attention to before it is too late to help their own children.

Fight anxiety or other mental health conditions

Alex was about 12 years old when he was first hospitalized, but it wasn’t for substance abuse or depression. He spent more than two months in the hospital being treated for anorexia.

Mrs Roos said: “And that’s when we started to notice his anxiety levels.” Before that time, we were just a normal family. We did all those things that normal families do.

‘Many neighbors would hang out in the backyard, the kids would put on plays, in the quintessential summers they would go out with your friends and have barbecues, etc.

‘In seventh grade, he talked about having had two classes on the obesity epidemic and reading about anorexia… He asked his dad, how can I get a six-pack and his dad told him to exercise and no more burgers? So he really took that to the extreme.”

Anorexia and anxiety often go hand in hand. The process of eating becomes an obsession and the fear of gaining weight takes over. The disorder manifests itself as micromanaging all the food someone eats as a means to exert control over their own lives and combat the fear of losing control, also known as anxiety.

Alex became increasingly isolated during his years of active addiction, often sneaking away and disappearing for days at a time.

Alex became increasingly isolated during his years of active addiction, often sneaking away and disappearing for days at a time.

Approximately one in three people who suffer from an eating disorder is male. Men represent about 20 percent of those with anorexia and 30 percent of those with bulimia.

Similarly, substance use disorder and anxiety often occur at the same time. A large study that reflected data from more than 43,000 Americans found that generalized anxiety disorder was the anxiety disorder most frequently associated with the use of alcohol or drugs for self-medication.

Ms Roos said: ‘You think about the kind of psychological factors that are systemic – depression or anxiety – but there are also socio-economic and systemic factors, such as poverty, unemployment, incarceration and racism. These are all the contexts in which people live.

‘So what’s the message you would give to parents who are worried about this? The first thing you have to do is evaluate the risk. So what are the psychological factors?

‘Do you have psychological problems in your family, in your extended family? Do you have alcoholism in your family or extended family? And that allows you to better assess the risks you face.

‘It is important to understand that most young people use drugs to self-medicate, right? And Alex’s case, that’s exactly what was happening, and we saw it when he had anorexia.’

The recent National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions found that nearly 18 percent of people with substance use disorder also met criteria for an anxiety disorder.

A separate study by Yale researchers The anxiety disorders found tend to precede the onset of alcohol abuse disorder and coexist. In 57 to 80 percent of cases where people had both an anxiety disorder and an alcohol use disorder, the anxiety came first.


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And in at least 67 percent of cases where people had both anxiety and a drug use disorder, the anxiety disorder appeared first.

The rehab programs Alex attended were mostly 12-step programs that discourage the use of any mind-altering substances, including anxiety medications.

While they were not prescribed consistently during her years of active addiction, Ms. Roos said she was at one point able to get three months’ worth of Xanax and Ambien from a doctor at an urgent care clinic.

Sneaking around

Alex’s mother said her son began exhibiting “sneaky” behavior after he was discharged from the hospital. It all started with him secretly drinking while he attended high school in Metuchen, New Jersey, and continued through college.

And like many drug addicts or alcoholics, Alex knew how to hide it well.

Mrs Roos told DailyMail.com: “Shortly after leaving hospital, he started drinking surreptitiously and we didn’t know how much he drank. But… in high school, he was a little more problematic. And in college he became much more problematic. ”.

The summer after his college graduation in 2012 was marked by a series of deaths in the family, increasing Alex’s anxiety and depression.

His mother added: ‘When Alex graduated from university in 2012… he really got into drugs. (In) 2013 was the first time he overdosed, and we had to take the door off its hinges to find him, overdosing on heroin.’

Being clever doesn’t have to mean denying the use of a drug at all. A person who compulsively uses drugs may lie and say that drugs are an occasional indulgence.

It is also not unusual for compulsive drug users to abscond for days at a time.

Before Alex’s fatal overdose, he hadn’t been in contact with his family for six days, and that wasn’t the first time.

Drug use is often a solitary activity, and that became even more true during the Covid pandemic.

People often go to the bathroom to inject drugs, and Ms. Roos said parents should pay attention to how often and how long their child is in the bathroom.

She said: “It’s important to watch out if kids start to isolate themselves, start to lose friends, if they spend a lot of time in the bathroom because a lot of drug use happens in bathrooms because that’s one of the few places where I think the people find some privacy they need.’

Patricia Roos (pictured with Alex and her husband, left) said Alex was a happy, athletic boy with a

Patricia Roos (pictured with Alex and her husband, left) said Alex was a happy, athletic boy with a “wicked sense of humor.”

Sell ​​belongings

Drugs are not free, and for an addict getting them becomes more important than getting food or a place to live. For drug users without disposable income, that often requires selling valuable belongings.

It may also require stealing from the family to turn anything from family heirlooms to cutlery for profit.

According to Mrs Roos, Alex begged at a local train station and sold “a lot of different things” to feed his addiction.

Mrs Roos told this website: “We put our rings in a safe deposit box because we didn’t want him to get them and sell them.” And he was aware of all this.

‘I remember having lunch with him and he said, “Oh, you’re not wearing your rings.” And I said, “Yeah, we put them in the safe deposit box.” And he said, “Because of me?” and I said ‘yes’, and he just felt horrible.’

Part of the appeal of heroin, as well as fentanyl and other opioids sold on the street, is that they are not very expensive. A bag of heroin costs about $5, and prices remain low because of fentanyl, which is cheap and plentiful.

Fentanyl and other illicit opioids are rapidly being mass produced, largely from China to Mexico, as well as in smaller clandestine laboratories in the United States.

Efforts to keep fentanyl off the streets are taking on a hit-to-a-mole quality, with drugmakers making more and more lethal fentanyl analogues.

And there is little sign that the flood of illicit drugs on the streets of American cities is abating.

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