Twenty-four-year-old Ryan already struggled with addiction, but when his father passed away from cancer, his addiction quickly spiraled out of control. His mother, Dana, was left absolutely heartbroken.
Even though it’s difficult to tell, Dana wants everyone to know her son’s story in hopes that it doesn’t happen to anyone else.
“When my husband was diagnosed with cancer things kind of changed,” Dana said. Ryan’s addiction got even worse when his dad died. He was close to his father, so when cancer reared its ugly head, Ryan used drugs to cope with the grief. He was only in high school at the time.
He started pushing the limits with prescription drugs, not thinking he would become addicted, but he did. Eventually, his experimentation with prescription drugs turned into regular meth use.
Ryan agreed to go to rehab in Jacksonville, Florida, and Dana had hope for her son. Soon after he returned home, however, he relapsed.
Desperate, Dana gave her son an ultimatum that convinced him to go back to rehab. As he boarded the plane, she told him, “Don’t die on me.”
He reassured her, “I promise, Mom. I promise I won’t.”
Just weeks after that promise, Dana received notice that Ryan was in the hospital due to overdose.
She remembered, “I called the hospital and said, ‘Just tell me Ryan’s going to be okay,’ and she goes ‘No, ma’am. I can’t.'” Dana lost her son only four years after her husband’s death.
The toxicology reports showed that Ryan died of a loperamide overdose. A more well-known name is the anti-diarrheal, Imodium.
It was estimated that he took anywhere from 100 to 200 pills. Loperamide acts like an opioid when taken in large amounts, according to Dr. Robert Pfalzgraf. “One of the articles basically called it the poor man’s methadone,” he said.
While this seemingly harmless over the counter drug can act like an opioid without showing up on a urine test, it can also “cause death suppression of respiration.”
Dana believes Ryan heard about using Imodium from other patients in rehab. “A lot of addicts use it to one wean off of opiates or just to chill. Ryan was using it just to chill,” she said. “From what I’ve been told it was his first time.”
It’s difficult to say just how many people have died due to Imodium because it isn’t often tested for. Since 2015, loperamide has shown up on a dozen of toxicology tests at the Medical Examiner’s Office in Jacksonville. Dana believes that there were probably more than that. “It’s something that they have to know to test,” she said.
For those thinking about trying Imodium for “a cheap, quick high” she hopes that they’ll remember how her son’s story ended.
Dana also hopes that Ryan’s story warns other parents to look out for the drug.
“Check and see what your child has and if they have, you know, boxes of Imodium or the bottles sitting around. You know just to watch for it especially in rehab. You know the people in rehab may think it’s safe, probably told it’s safe, and it’s not.”
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