Mom Becomes Advocate After Losing Two Sons In One Day To Overdose

By Britni de la Cretaz 08/17/17

“I constantly told my kids, ‘Don’t do drugs. Don’t drink.' I never talked to them about prescription drugs.”

Becky, Nick and Jack Savage
Becky, Nick and Jack Savage Photo via 525 Foundation

Becky Savage of Granger, Indiana, has dedicated her life to warning people about opioid abuse after losing both her sons to accidental overdoses on the same day in 2015.

Savage's sons, 19-year-old Nick and 18-year-old Jack, were found unresponsive and without a pulse following a night of drinking alcohol and taking oxycodone. They both died after accidentally overdosing on the combination of the two substances, according to a profile of Savage and her activism in STAT News.

In memory of her sons, Savage started the 525 Foundation, named for Jack and Nick’s hockey numbers. The foundation offers education and advocacy about the risk of prescription medications. Savage shares her story with students to try to humanize the statistics about opioid overdose that many of them receive in school, to put a human face to the epidemic.

She told STAT News that she often warned her sons about the dangers of illicit drugs and alcohol, but never talked to them about prescription drugs. “I constantly told my kids, ‘Don’t do drugs. Don’t drink,'" Savage says. "I never talked to them about prescription drugs.”

New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released this week show that Savage’s story is not unique. The numbers show that, among teens ages 15-19, rates of overdose deaths more than doubled between 1999 and 2007. Between 2007 and 2014, that rate dropped 26%—only to rise again in 2015. The culprit for that dramatic spike in overdose deaths is opioids—heroin specifically. The CDC found that heroin was the primary cause of fatal drug overdoses for adolescents in 2015. 

One initiative that Savage has undertaken in her community is organizing "pill drops," where people can dispose of old and unused prescriptions. It’s something that has been gaining popularity in recent years. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) hosts an a bi-annual Prescription Drug Take-Back Day. During these events, police departments, hospitals, pharmacies, schools, and community centers make themselves available for people to get rid of their old pills so they don’t end up falling into the hands of someone who could misuse them.

According to the CDC, most people who abuse prescription drugs get them from a friend or family member, whether they are given freely or stolen. Savage has a message for parents about prescription drugs and talking to their kids about the dangers: tell them over and over again not to take them. She told STAT News, “Get in their faces.”

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Britni de la Cretaz is a freelance writer, baseball enthusiast, and recovered alcoholic living in Boston. Follow her on Twitter at @britnidlc.