Last month Nashville Mayor Megan Barry lost her son, Max to drug overdose. In the weeks since suffering this incomprehensible tragedy, she has emerged with renewed ambition to prevent her son’s death from defining his life while helping other parents cope with their children’s substance abuse in hopes of shielding them from similar outcomes. She intends to use her Mayoral platform, which she assumed in 2015, to encourage other parents who are battling similar issues in their families. She hopes to spark a “frank and honest” conversation regarding the cause of her son’s death and what parents can do to combat overdose in their own homes.
Barry’s grief has been both a source of anguish and a motivating factor as she endeavors to help other Nashville-area families. Her son is one of tens of thousands of Americans who continue to be killed by fatal drug overdose each year. Preliminary estimates reveal that 2016 set yet another record at over 56,000 over dose fatalities, up from the previous record-setting year of over 53,000. Drug overdose has become, unquestionably, one of the nation’s largest public health issues and the leading cause of accidental deaths, surpassing even automobile accidents. The problem is amplified by the proliferation of synthetic opioids.
What is, perhaps, most jarring about Barry’s story is that it reinforces that drug overdose could happen to anyone, from the disadvantaged to those with considerable resources. She said paramedics administered Narcan to her son, but it didn’t save his life. Despite the unfillable hole that her son’s death has left in her life, she remains ever vigilant in helping make sense of her ordeal by using her experience and resources to spare other families from this unthinkable pain. If you are a parent who suspects their child may have a substance abuse issue, don’t wait until it’s too late to get them help.