opioid addict

Detroit Parent of Opioid Addict Opens Up About Son’s Struggle

Vicki King’s son, Jeff, died two years ago of an opioid overdose—heroin, laced with fentanyl. He was 20 years old. Now, King is reflecting on her late son’s struggle, warning other parents: “don’t be the mom that I was.”

It’s possible that Jeff’s opioid addiction began in high school, after a snowboarding injury when he was 15 or 16. After that, his grades began slipping and his stories weren’t adding up, but King just figured her son was being a typical teenager.

She received a wake-up call about what was really going on with Jeff after he had gone away to Wayne State University, and ended up in the emergency room after an overdose. “That just opened the door to all the demons,” said King. “We found out all the stuff, about the pills and hiding things and skipping classes—just everything.” Jeff went into recovery, but died a few weeks later from his overdose.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever seen anything more significant in my career than the fentanyl,” said Timothy Plancon, a special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Agency Detroit Field Division on the front lines of the opioid epidemic. “It’s as bad a problem as any drug epidemic has ever been in the United States.”

A report by the National Center for Health Statistics showed that heroin was the number one overdose killer in 2014; overdose deaths from fentanyl also doubled between 2013 and 2014.

King warns other parents never to assume that their child would “never, ever, ever do that.” She now volunteers for Hope Not Handcuffs, an addiction recovery program. “Always be on the alert. Don’t ever say ‘not my kid.’”

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