Nearly a year after Shawn Weed lost her 24-year-old son Cole Norris to a drug overdose, she has devoted her life to helping raise awareness about prescription drug abuse.
Weed, of Headland, has spoken to several area groups and attended the awareness event called “Operation Save Teens” held Sunday evening at Covenant United Methodist Church .
Between 50 and 75 youth and adults attended the event led by Lt. Mike Reese, who serves as an agent with the Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board.
Susan Trawick, the executive director of the Dothan Houston Substance Abuse Partnership, said the event was held as a way to bring awareness for today’s National Overdose Awareness Day.
Trawick said Reese will speak at two Dothan schools, Girard Middle School and Northview High School , today about the dangers of the latest drugs commonly abused by teenagers.
Weed said her son grew up and attended school in Dothan before moving to Tennessee for his senior year. He later attended the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga . Her son started smoking marijuana, which she said later led to other drugs like prescription medications.
“He became addicted to opiate pain killers,” she said. “He died of a Fentanyl overdose. It comes in a patch where you can inject it. It’s powerful. It’s stronger than heroin and morphine.”
She said her son had already been through rehab when he overdosed. She said he had had surgery in November 2014 and overdosed a month later.
“He was prescribed opiate pain medication, and we think that caused a relapse back into his addiction,” she said. “You never know when that one time could kill you.”
Weed said she would like to see it become more difficult for people to obtain opiate prescription medications and for there to be a stricter monitoring system similar to the current one for pseudoephedrine, which is used to make meth.
“This is about raising awareness,” Weed said. “If it can happen in my family, it can happen in anybody’s family.”
Reese spoke on a number of the drugs abused by teenagers across Alabama and, in particular, synthetic marijuana, commonly known as K-2 or spice. He called synthetic marijuana much more dangerous than regular marijuana.
“This young man took a hit off a pipe that had synthetic marijuana in it, and it killed him,” Reese said, as he recounted a fatality involving synthetic drug usage.
Reese called marijuana the gateway drug to the abuse of other drugs. He also talked about how Alabama launched the Zero Addiction program to help combat the statewide problem of prescription medication abuse.
One of the posters from the campaign displayed during the program read “Kill your aches, your pain and eventually kill you.”
“Our message is very simple,” Reese said. “What we want kids to know is they can never try it just one time. We have drugs that can kill in just one time.”
Reese finished the event by encouraging parents to safeguard their prescription medication at home and to talk to their children, asking them the hard questions.
“We do these programs to enlighten the parents and to give them the signs to look for, but also to show the kids, too,” Reese said. “We have to get to the kids before they get addicted to something. It’s very hard to get people unaddicted . These treatment centers are very expensive, and most of the time, it takes long-term care and commitment.”