A teenager steals some methadone painkiller so she can get high. She gives some to another kid, he takes it, and he dies. But he was also drinking heavily at the time - a deadly combination with opiate drugs. Is this murder, or a tragic accident? And who do you blame? It's a tough call. But the tragedy would never have happened if they'd both been where they belonged before it ever happened - in drug rehab.
According to court documents in Tuolumne County, California, 19-year-old Grace Elizabeth Carder of Groveland allegedly supplied 19-year-old Clinton Holt with methadone she stole from a cancer patient. Holt later died from an overdose of the drug - but his blood alcohol content was .16, twice the legal limit.
Carder and another kid she shared the methadone with, 19-year-old Nicholas Jordan Fereria, are scheduled to appear in Tuolumne County Superior Court next February for a preliminary hearing about the case. Carder is charged with petty theft, possession of a controlled substance and supplying a controlled substance to another individual. Fereria is being charged with possession of a controlled substance.
Carder should have been in drug rehab before this tragic wake-up call. She should very earnestly consider it now. Perhaps she and Mr. Fereria should enroll in drug rehab together, since they both need to find out why in the blue blazes they think it's okay to mess around with deadly opiates.
But, there are other questions:
A kid gets some drugs from another kid, and dies. Who do you hold responsible? How do you assess blame - no, let's call it responsibility - in a situation like this?
Has a crime been committed under our legal system related to the death? A 19-year-old with his whole life ahead of him is dead and the charges consist only of petty theft, possession, and supplying - so the law doesn't seem to be too concerned.
The supplier (and some others) might blame the deceased for stupidly mixing opiates and alcohol. Hey, savvy opiate addicts and drug rehab counselors know that mixing alcohol with methadone (or heroin, or any other opiate) can be dangerous or even fatal - just wander into any drug rehab center and ask the first person you see.
The deceased's parents might blame the thief and supplier. The thief supplied at least half the murder weapon, and possibly didn't warn young Holt not to mix methadone with alcohol - or didn't know it was dangerous. But parents aren't always quick to blame the suppliers. In many cases they blame themselves for their kid's drug abuse, and for all the obvious reasons - failure to properly guide their kid, setting the wrong kinds of examples, not staying in communication, not realizing their kid has a drug problem serious enough to warrant drug rehab counseling.
Whether or not this was an accident, a case of criminal negligence, or homicide, or manslaughter, or the result of a system gone so wrong that deadly drugs are available almost everywhere you look, is apparently not part of the legal equation in this case. I'm just interested in whether anyone involved will be ordered by the court to drug rehab. Because that would get more to the heart of the matter.
When parents lose a child they've raised for nearly 20 years, it can be more than heartbreak, it can be a catastrophe that a family never quite gets over. But this catastrophe in Tuolumne County, CA, is being repeated almost every day across America. Hundreds of teenagers and young adults are perishing for reasons that no parent, or anyone else, will ever be able justify - and thousands of parents are grieving and blaming themselves. These kids aren't dying for some higher purpose or just cause, either - they're dying, always by accident, for the simple purpose of getting stoned.
And we who know better are apparently too lazy, too busy, or too self-involved to pay attention and get our troubled kids, relatives, friends and students with drug problems into drug rehab before catastrophe strikes.
Almost every case of the drug-related death of a teenager might have been prevented by a timely intervention and drug rehab. And not just for the deceased, but a timely drug rehab for all the others who are catalysts that lead to disaster. A substance abusing parent at home, a friend at school who popularizes drug abuse, the other kids who are dependent or addicted and know what's going on - any one of these might have been the catalyst that saved a life, if their own drug rehab program was brought into the picture in time to serve as a lesson.
Rod MacTaggart is a freelance writer who contributes articles on health.