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Opioid Awareness

Losing My Son to an Opioid Overdose

Photo: Courtesy of Judy Rummler

My son Steve did not want to die. He tried really hard to get well but his prescription opioids killed him.

When I talk about my son I say that he was a wonderful son, full of love and compassion. I also openly talk about the fact that Steve was addicted to opioids.

Steve suffered a back injury, leading to chronic pain that was unable to be successfully treated. The pain was debilitating and was significantly affecting his life. Eventually, he became depressed as a result and was prescribed antidepressants. They helped but did not ease his chronic pain.

Steve was then given a prescription for opioids. He was initially thrilled that a medication finally seemed to be working. However, he quickly became addicted to that prescription and became a totally different person.

Out of control

He began taking more and more pills, developing a tolerance, and seeking out multiple doctors to fill new prescriptions (a practice called doctor-shopping), leading Steve to enroll in multiple rehabilitation and treatment programs. After a 28-day addiction treatment program, Steve relapsed and died of a heroin overdose at the age of 43. We believe that this was his first time trying heroin, and it killed him.

After the loss of my son, we found a note he had written about his experience with prescription opioids. It said, “At first they were a lifeline. Now they are a noose around my neck.”

Helping others

Soon after losing our son, my husband Bill and I established the Steve Rummler Hope Network to provide hope for those suffering with chronic pain and addiction. Our nonprofit worked for the passage of Steve’s Law in Minnesota, providing access to the life-saving drug naloxone and immunity from prosecution to those witnessing an overdose. As Chair of the FED UP! Coalition to End the Opioid Epidemic, we organized rallies to change opioid-related federal policies and supported the release of the CDC Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain.

We also want everyone to know that a death like Steve’s can be prevented. Doctors can use their state’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP), electronic databases used to track the prescribing and dispensing of prescription drugs to patients. Doctors can also offer guidance to help taper and discontinue use of opioids. Family members and friends of those suffering from opioid addiction can get naloxone, which can reverse the effects of opioid overdose and can be life-saving if administered in time.

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