Investigators: Teen prescription drug abuse a growing problem

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by By / KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on November 13, 2009 at 1:16 PM

Video: Teen prescription drug abuse a growing problem

BOTHELL, Wash. - Accidental prescription drug overdoses are now killing more people than car accidents in Washington state.

A lot of people responded to our on deadly drug combinations in October, and we felt one story was so important we had to share it.

Ryan DePuy of Bothell was just 17 years old when he overdosed on a deadly combination of prescription and over-the-counter medications. He was a junior at Bothell High School.

"I miss his laughs and his hugs," his mother Charlene DePuy said. "He meant the world to me. You just feel like there's a hole in your heart."

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"You just put your head in your hands and cry, because he should be here," his father Scott DePuy said.

Ryan seemed like the last kid you'd expect to get hooked on drugs. He had lots of friends, he loved sports and he had supportive parents.

"I was his baseball coach," Scott DePuy said. "We would leave work early to go to soccer practice or get him to soccer tournaments."

But Ryan also dabbled in drugs, both over-the-counter meds and prescription pills. By his 16th birthday, he was addicted and was sent to an in-patient rehabilitation center for treatment. Ryan was there for 35 days.

"He came back like our son again," Charlene said. "We got our son back."

"He was ready to take on the world again, work as hard as he could work at getting to meetings, new friends, job, college," Ryan's father said.

But for reasons Scott and Charlene still don't fully understand, Ryan gradually turned back to drugs. They were grappling with what to do, when one day last April Ryan went missing just before his high school soccer game.

"And I hear the sirens and my heart just stops and I pick up the phone and I hope that I can talk to him, because if I can talk to him, then the sirens weren't for him," Charlene DePuy said.

Scott DePuy, who's a firefighter with Eastside Fire and Rescue, was working that day. He saw that the 911 call was from an apartment complex a few blocks from their home where Ryan sometimes hung out.

"It said, 15-year-old male, possible overdose. First thought was my kid's 17, we're OK," Scott said.

But it wasn't OK. The call was for Ryan, and he was dead. The medical examiner ruled he died from a toxic combination of a narcotic pain killer, an anti-depressant and two over the counter meds -- Benadryl and cough syrup.

Now his father is telling Ryan's story to as many kids as he can.

"My son was an addict," Scott told students at Eastlake High School in Sammamish last week.

Scott warned the packed assembly that teens are abusing prescription drugs at a record rate. It's a message that resonates. Some students asked for advice about what to do if they have friends who are using drugs. Others wanted to know why prescription drugs are so dangerous.

The DePuys aren't stopping with educational outreach. They've also set up a foundation in Ryan's name to help other teens get treatment.

"He was the best," Scott DePuy said.

"Part of a parent's worst fear is losing your child," Charlene said. "And the second worst fear is people forgetting your child."

The foundation is their way of keeping Ryan's memory alive.

MORE: The KING 5 Investigators are committed to continuing their investigation into problems with prescription drug overdoses and abuse. Do you have a tip involving this issue that's worth pursuing? Please contact us at 888-K5-STORY or e-mail .

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