Surprising Kids Killer: Methadone
BEACH and LAKE WORTH, Fla., April 10, 2006
and schools frequently warn kids about the dangers of drugs.
But, as The Early Show national
correspondent Tracy Smith
reports in the first of two parts, a drug that's rarely
mentioned now kills more young people than any other in
Methadone, Smith explains, the same drug used to help heroin
addicts kick their habit, is now being prescribed as a
painkiller. That makes it easier for young people to get,
and that means more kids are abusing it — and dying from
overdoses of it.
Florida, North Carolina, Texas, and Washington, among other
places, have seen a rise in methadone-related deaths, Smith
points out. In Maine last year, for the first time,
drug-related deaths outnumbered deaths from car crashes, and
the No. 1 drug in those deaths was methadone.
It typically doesn't provide a big high, Smith says, so kids
think it's not working and take more of it or other
substances, and the result can be fatal.
Sharon Snyder, of Palm Beach, Fla., lost her son to a
On a patch of grass that used to be her lawn, Snyder has
built a shrine to him.
"If tears could build a stairway," she read from a memorial
in the shrine, "and memories a lane, I'd walk right up to
heaven, and bring you home again."
She tells Smith Jasa, her only child, was a good student,
who never got into trouble.
"He was just a very caring person and always tried to find
the best in everybody," Snyder says. "(We were) extremely
close. … He was my best friend."
But one night, 19-year-old Jasa went to visit another
friend, and never came home.
"I woke up at 5 in the morning and I knew he wasn't home. …
It's every parent's nightmare, and I don't know if it's
because we were so close but, I just knew something was
wrong with him. I knew he needed my help."
Tragically, Snyder was right. Sometime that night, Jasa had
taken, or been given, methadone for the first time. He
passed out, and never woke up.
"And at 7
o'clock," Snyder says, "I was in the shower, and the phone
rang, and it wasn't my son. It was the paramedics telling me
to come to the hospital, and I kept asking them, 'What's
going on with him. What's happened to my son?' And they
wouldn't tell me, and I just knew. I just knew in my heart
that it was over."
Then medical examiner's report said Jasa had succumbed to an
overdose of methadone.
In part because it's not as heavily regulated as drugs such
as OxyContin, Smith says, teenagers find methadone in their
parents' medicine chests, sometimes with fatal results.
Methadone kills more young people in Florida than any other
drug, Smith notes.
"The one prescription drug that keeps going up in terms of
the absolute numbers of deaths and rates of increase,
particularly for children, is methadone," says Jim
McDonough, the former director of the Florida Office of Drug
Control. "The facts are, it's murderous. Look at the death
rate. It's absolutely out of control."
One reason, Smith says: Methadone stays in the system for
days. So, every drink or drug taken afterwards can cause a
lethal reaction. And too often, teens have no idea what
Michael Petrillo of the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office
told Smith, "Before you go to a party, you go through your
mom and dad's medicine cabinet and you take all different
pills. And you walk in and just dump them in a bowl. And
people just help themselves to pills in the bowl."
Undercover agents showed Smith just how easy methadone was
to get, taking her with them on a methadone buy/sting in
Lake Worth, Fla., where they quickly purchased methadone
Each was 40 milligrams, and cost $20, Smith said. Each had
indentations separating it into quarters, and the normal
dose is probably a quarter of a pill, Smith said. But, "Kids
don't know that. They take the whole thing, and that's how
they end up dead."
Snyder may never know how much methadone killed Jasa, but
even knowing that wouldn't bring back the son whose ashes
she keeps in a locket around her neck, close to her heart.
Said Snyder: "People say to me, 'Why don't you just move
on?' You never move on. You just go on every day."
On Tuesday, Smith looks at a program that's scaring kids
straight when it comes to methadone.