Not a single night passes without Cindy Harney’s thoughts turning to the “what ifs” in life. More than 7 years have passed since she lost her 20-year-old son, Garrett, to a prescription drug overdose.
As she cradled her dead son, the police and emergency medical technicians arrived.
“They kept trying to pull me away, but I just wanted them to leave me alone with my boy.”
Harney said she began to scream and cry, “Where are you taking my son?”
Minutes before, Harney had received a frantic call from her son’s roommate, Weston Hooks. Hooks told her that Garrett was not breathing and he feared a drug overdose. Harney sped to Garrett’s side, but she was too late. Garrett Harney died on Aug. 20, 2006, from an accidental overdose of prescription Xanax and illegally purchased OxyContin.
The thought still brings tears to her eyes, but it’s not his loss she worries about now. It’s the others like him who battle the same addiction — or those who may if they aren’t educated about prescription drugs. Harney, co-founder of Families Against Addictive Drug Abuse, hopes to keep other children safe through education, networking and advocacy.“This isn’t a color; this isn’t a specific age,” Harney said of the prescription drug abuse epidemic and her crusade against it. “I have nothing to lose. I have lost.” Harney’s crusade began shortly after losing her son in 2006. After Garrett’s death, Harney and her family found they weren’t alone in their struggle.“Kids were either in jail, rehab or dead,” Harney remembered. “Kids do not think these (drugs) will hurt them because they are legal.”A newspaper article ultimately introduced Harney to another woman, Ruth Lyerly, of Bradenton, whose son shot himself in 2005. Together, they created FAADA, a not-for-profit dedicated to educating the public about prescription drug abuse.She and Lyerly were instrumental in having a prescription drug monitoring bill passed in the Legislature. The program, which should start at the end of this year, will allow pharmacies to track the number of prescriptions received by individuals — a move that hopefully will prevent individuals from visiting multiple doctors for prescriptions of the same drugs. “As we do what we do, we relive it over and over again,” Harney said. “It’s emotionally draining, and it physically takes its toll. But we look at it as helping others keep their boys from doing what our boys did.” Harney said she and Lyerly are well past the stereotypes that come with overdoses and drug abuse. She knows her son was a good child, despite the stealing and other bad habits the drugs influenced Garrett to do. Harney was a stay-at-home mom who cooked dinner every night and ushered her children to Little League and other activities — the type of family no one would expect to face this type of tragedy. Overdose deaths from prescription painkillers have quadrupled nationwide in recent years, rising from 4,030 deaths in 1999 to 16,651 in 2010. According to Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 125,000 lives were lost in the last 10 years to legal drugs like Vicodin, OxyContin and methadone.In fact, deaths from prescription painkillers, or “opioids,” as they’re also known, now outpaces those attributed to heroin and cocaine combined.
Garrett is also survived by his sister Tara.
Below Tara shares her experience,
“My brother was called home when he was only 20 years old.. He had struggled with addiction since he was in high school . We were raised right knowing right from wrong in a christian home. My mom was a stay at home mom and very active in our lives. We were the All american family my parents were married, we had dinner as a family every night said grace and knew we were loved. My mom was extremely active in our lives and supported us with everything we did. Our family was never in denial some parents like to pretend everything is ok and not confront the issues going on behind closed doors. Truth is we all have struggles and i have learned from my mom that when my children are going through something i will never sweep it under the rug and act like i have perfect children.. I will be there to hold them hug them wipe their tears and help pick them back up off the floor when the fall. That’s exactly what we did with my brother we always let him know he was loved and that no matter what we would be there for him. He started smoking pot when he was in high school and one thing led to another and before he knew it he was hanging out with the wrong crowd and getting deeper and deeper into drugs. He was introduced to rx pills from the easiest place imaginable his friends moms medicine cabinet.. Who would have thought synthetic herione would be in your medicine cabinet.. He continued to struggle with addiction passing all of his drug tests since opioids don’t show up in a drug test(now you can request this type of drug test) Going to rehab and “successfully” completing his treatment so we thought.. A few months after he was out of rehab he went to bed having one beer his xanax that was prescribed to him to quit smoking by his doctor.. And oxy contin This was the lethal combination that caused him to go to bed and never wake up. I will never forget that phone call or kissing him on the forehead good-bye.. These are things you never think will happen to you or your family.. I know it taught me a lot about life and now i always tell the ones i love that i love them and try my best to appreciate all the little things in life because we really are all one phone call away from being on our knees. I am extremely cautious when it comes to taking any kind of medication and always do my research when it comes to my health. Especially when i find out a dr prescribes a friend oxy contin for a surgery as a pain-killer i am always like having to explain to them that the drug was originally prescribed to terminally ill cancer patients. (keeping in mind they are terminally ill & the drug is highly addictive since they did not create it for people who were going to survive) it is being prescribed on a regular basis for surgery, sports injuries, etc. because Pharma Companies had said that it was not highly addictive. most of us know thats not true i am just fearful for the ones that don’t know this & how their lives could drastically change by trusting their doctors.”
- 100 people die every day in the Uniter States from drug overdoses
- Drug overdose death rates in the United States have more than tripled since 1990
- More than 12 million Americans reported using prescription painkillers nonmedically in 2010
- Prescription painkillers have been a major contributor to increases in drug overdose deaths among women
Previous research has shown that women are more likely to have chronic pain, be prescribed prescription painkillers, be given higher doses, and use them for longer time periods than men
We would like to thank the Harney family for sharing their story with us and hope is sheds some light on this terrible epidemic.
If you or someone you know has a problem with drug or alcohol abuse please click HERE for help
For more information on prescription drug abuse click HERE