Like many moms, Kathy Creedon of Palm Desert, Calif. never dreamed her son Ryan would become a drug addict. But Ryan became addicted to prescription drugs, and in 2009, he died of an overdose of OxyContin and Xanax. He was just 21 years old. Kathy has taken up the fight against prescription drug addiction, starting a nonprofit organization called M.A.P.D.A. (Mothers Against Prescription Drug Abuse) to bring awareness to the public about the risks of pill abuse. In addition, California Congresswoman Mary Bono Mack has introduced federal legislation in Ryan’s name. The Ryan Creedon Act of 2011 aims to educate doctors about the dangers of prescribing OxyContin and other drugs that are subject to abuse, and hopefully prevent Ryan’s situation from happening to others.
According to Kathy, in the 13-month period prior to Ryan’s death, he experienced six near-fatal prescription drug overdoses – yet his health care provider, Kaiser Permanente, continued to prescribe him massive amounts of pills even though Kathy repeatedly warned them that her son was an addict. The day before Ryan died, for example, he was given a prescription for 60 Xanax pills. “Every single time I thought I’d covered my tracks and put a stop to it, I’d see another bottle from Kaiser and it made me sick to my stomach that this could go on,” she says. “It’s mind-boggling that it happened to me and Ryan, but even more so that it’s happening all over the place.”
Of the Ryan Creedon Act, Kathy says:
“The lack of education on addiction and the abuse of controlled substances in the medical community played a huge role in enabling my son’s disease of addiction, which resulted in his death. It is time that doctors realize a few words written on a prescription pad have the power to devastate lives. I feel the passing of this legislation is vital to bringing awareness to the epidemic of irresponsible prescribing and the impact it has on our communities. This bill has the ability to save lives.”
To read Kathy’s testimony before Congress in April 2011, go here.
To view the text of the Ryan Creedon Act of 2011, go here.
And here, Kathy shares Ryan’s story in her own words:
“This is a mother’s recollection of events that led to the death of her son after a six year struggle with drug addiction.
Ryan was a child every parent would hope for, until his freshman year in high school. It was these words that identified the beginning of my journey of addiction with Ryan when the principal called and said, “Ryan has been caught with possession of marijuana”. The following year, after two more drug offenses, he was expelled from school. I will never forget the devastation of watching my son being taken away in hand cuffs from the courtroom one day. I drenched myself with tears, wondering how this could happen. It is difficult to know when the line has been crossed between the experimentation of drugs… into addiction. I could not afford to be in denial and ignore the signs of the past months. Because he was not of legal age, I made the decision for Ryan to be admitted to a residential treatment facility, with the hope this would give me back my son.
After re-hab for the next two years, Ryan managed to be successful in gainful employment and was attending college. This time for me was not without worry that the drug use would resume and little by little they crept back into his life. The denial symptom of addiction was showing its ugly face to Ryan. It was apparent he did not connect the dots between making a bad decision, and the consequences of his actions.
Ryan was now 20 years old. The loss of jobs became common, as complete chaos began intruding into all areas of his life. The introduction of prescription drug abuse pulled him further into the grips of addiction. To those who loved him, it was obvious his life was falling apart, but the delusion to Ryan prevented him from recognizing the truth. He lost his driver’s license and car, apartment, and everything else he owned. The disease of addiction was causing major behavior changes. He was arrested trying to manipulate a way to get more pills. Ryan became relentless in maneuvering through the obstacles to survive the intense craving messages sent to his brain, caused by his drug use. He was avoiding his family, his health was failing, and the devastation to his family was unbearable while we lived in fear for his life. One night, he was robbed at gunpoint over the sale of drugs. The disease of addiction leads you to places one could never imagine. It was evident Ryan had lost complete control of his logical decision making process. This insanity got worse as time went on.
Ryan was in and out of our family home during the last 18 months of his life. I felt anxiety and depression taking control of me. He made another attempt at treatment, but he relapsed again. It was terrifying to come home from work and wonder what I was going to find. I had to make some “tough love” decisions, which tormented me. Ryan had no idea, but it was the hardest decision of my life. This emotional pain required a mother to brainwash her own thoughts to attempt to save her child’s life. I convinced myself that putting him “on the streets” might save his life. So, I did just that.
I would go to the window with anxiety while he was on the streets to see if the sleeping bag had been moved that he kept on the side of the house. He had no idea that was how I knew he was alive one more day, and I would do the same thing day after day. I no longer had the privilege of comforting and feeding my son. He chose the drugs! I prayed for the strength to get through each day.
I was still fighting behind the scenes while he was on the streets and I found that trying to stay one step ahead of a drug addict is almost impossible. I alerted the medical facilities to inform them of my son’s addiction, so they would stop prescribing pills that were deadly to a drug addict. That was a nightmare in itself, as I hit brick walls trying to maneuver privacy laws.
I never gave up on Ryan…sometimes hope is all we have. I wanted to support Ryan and I always told him, “I will help you only when I see that you are trying to help yourself.” In the ten months before he died, he made several attempts to stay off the drugs, but a relapse occurred every time he was able to visit a doctor. It was easy for me to later identify a pattern of near death overdoses to the prescribing of yet another bottle of pills he should never have been able to obtain. The severity of the relapses resulted in many accidental overdoses all preceded by 911 calls. Ryan was hospitalized six times (that I know) of to save his life.
The last time I saw him he had just gotten out of jail. He came home to get some clothes, knowing I would not allow him back home. I said to him as he was getting on his bike, that I hoped he was not going to do something illegal. He said, “You have to do what you have to do”. I felt sick to my stomach as I said, “I love you Ryan.” He called back to me, “I love you too” as I watched him ride away on his bike. I am so thankful for hearing those words….they are a gift from God! That was the last day I saw my son alive.
I received a phone call two weeks later from Ryan asking for money. He was hungry. After some brief words I said, “I love you Ryan.” That was the last time I talked to my son. He died two days later from an overdose of OxyContin and Xanex. He was just 21 years old.”