Chicago Tribune

Like thousands of families shattered by drug overdoses, Becky and Mike Savage needed time and space to begin to come to terms with the deaths of their two teenage sons. The Savages of Granger, Ind., near South Bend, lost two of their four sons on the same night due to accidental overdoses.

Smart, athletic and talented, 19-year-old Nick and 18-year-old Jack went to a graduation party together on June 13, 2015. Nick, a soon-to-be sophomore at Indiana University, and Jack, a soon-to-be freshman at Ball State University, returned home with friends around midnight.

They died sometime overnight, Jack in his bed and Nick in the basement with friends.

The boys had mixed alcohol and oxycodone. Even a small amount of alcohol with a tablet containing oxycodone can be deadly, medical research has shown. But Nick and Jack, neither with a history of drug or alcohol abuse, didn’t know the dangers. Their friends didn’t know the dangers. Their parents didn’t know the dangers.

The Savages launched the 525 Foundation in honor of their sons. The foundation’s purpose is to educate. Becky Savage has traveled to schools around the country, shared her family’s tragic story with media outlets and testified before Congress. The foundation also spearheads a drop-off program at local grocery stores where people can anonymously leave unused prescriptions. The money raised through the foundation pays for the drop-off boxes and a removal company that safely destroys the medicines.

Like many parents, the Savages had talked to their boys about drugs and alcohol, drinking and driving, sex — coming-of-age conversations.

But there’s a gap. Parents and educators are not as vigilant in warning about the dangers of prescription drugs. Many medicine cabinets — maybe yours — house bottles of powerful, legal painkillers, often expired or no longer used, but still potentially lethal.

Becky Savage has a compelling story to tell young people, their parents and grandparents, their educators and all the adults in their lives.

Studies have shown even a small amount of alcohol mixed with oxycodone can cause alarming side effects including respiratory problems. The Savage boys’ cause of death was accidental overdose.

The morning after the party, Becky Savage frantically tried to revive Jack after realizing he was unconscious in bed. While paramedics swarmed the house, she learned that Nick’s friends in the basement — awakened by her screaming — had called first responders for him. But both boys were gone.

Her advice to parents is to clean out medicine cabinets and have conversations about how to “create an exit plan” a teen can implement when he or she wants to escape a peer-pressure situation. She also tells parents not to overreact if they end up picking up their teens at parties where they shouldn’t have been in the first place. At least the young people are still alive.

On the 525 Foundation’s website, she blogged recently about cleaning out the boys’ bedroom at the family lake house. Becky, Mike and their younger sons, Justin and Matthew, did not sleep again in the house where the boys died. They drove to the lake instead, every night.

“I told myself their lives gave us memories too beautiful to forget,” she wrote. “I told myself the tears were just love that was overflowing from my heart. I told myself painting a few walls doesn’t erase the memories. I told myself change can be good … even though it’s difficult.”

Today. Please. Have the talk.

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