Opioids killed their son; Now they’re funding scholarships to help educate future pharmacists

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DENVER (KDVR) – We’re learning more about how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the opioid epidemic. According to the Centers for Disease Control, about 81,000 people died in America from drug overdoses in 2020. More than 1,300 overdosed on opioids right here in Colorado. Now the founders of a local charity are taking action, after deadly opioids drug interactions robbed them of the most precious people in their life.

To some, there is a stereotype of the kind of person who usually dies from an opioid overdose. But James Patrick “JP” Carroll, 26, did not fit that mold.

“He was taking a prescribed anti-anxiety medication – which is also called a benzodiazepine – and he took a single dose of that with a single dose of an opioid, and it caused him to stop breathing in his sleep,” his mother, Karen Hill, told FOX31.

His was an accidental death – a single dose that caused a deadly drug interaction. It happens more often that you might think. And it could happen to any of us.

“I could go out and injure my knee playing a pickup basketball game, and unless my doctor knows I’m on a benzo, unless he knows my medical history or asks me, he’s going to prescribe me an opioid and the combination of the two can kill me, and it did kill our son,” said Don Hill, JP’s father and president of the non-profit JP Opioid Interaction Awareness Alliance, told FOX31.

Soon, JP’s parents realized a couple of things. One, even their son’s own doctor didn’t know the drugs were deadly together.

“If I had a dollar for every time I heard the words, ‘I had no idea. I had no idea this could kill you,'” Don Hill said.

Secondly, they learned they weren’t alone.

“I too lost my daughter, her name was Heidi. I lost her, it’s been 10 years this year,” Suzi Stulte, a board member for the non-profit, told FOX31.

What both families have noticed over the last year during the pandemic is that isolation and stress from COVID-19 has made the opioid situation even worse.

“We don’t want other people to face the kind of senseless loss that we have all felt,” Stulte said.

So through their charity, they’re now raising money to fund scholarships for pharmacy students here in Colorado. They want the very people who will eventually be doling out prescription drugs in our state to have a better sense of how dangerous they cab be, if prescribed, combined and consumed improperly.

You can help fund those scholarships. The charity is having its sixth annual Save-A-Life Golf Tournament Friday, June 4 at The Ridge at Castle Pines North, and they’re still looking for golfers and donors. To sign up for the tournament, visit their website.

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