Fighting Demons

I never thought I would be so upset about the loss someone who was so mean to me.

In middle school, he made fun of me for being good at school, then tried to get me to give him answers. He put me down about my Lord of the Rings obsession. He was a bully, someone I tried to avoid. As we moved on to high school, I lost most knowledge of him. I think we may have had a class or two together, but even if we did, we didn’t interact. He was a popular jock – a hockey player, perhaps other sports as well – but he was still a relatively smart kid from the little of him I heard. I knew he was the kind that drank and partied, but so was many at my school. We graduated, moved on to college, and he was gone from my world until last fall when I found out he died from a drug overdose.

Later, I found out that he’s had issues with drugs, went to rehab this summer, and had transferred colleges so that he could live at home.

He was 21-years-old. He hadn’t even finished college. He had his whole future ahead of him. As I read the posts on his Facebook wall of people’s memories of him, he came off as a guy with a great personality, a really funny, nice and caring person. It makes me wish that I had got to know him and not let my 7th grade interactions with him affect my idea of him as a person.

He isn’t the first of my graduating class to die, but he is the first to die of a – can I say without seeming heartless – preventable cause, which makes it no better or worse than the other accidental deaths but I can’t shake this off. I can’t help but think what if someone had helped him? What if he had made the conscious decision to fight his addiction? Why did his abuse of drugs start? Why did his rehab not work? Why did his life have to end at such a young age? What can I do to help others so they do not succumb to this same fate? Such questions and more continue to race through my head.

And so I beg of all of you, whether you do drugs or know someone who does drugs, BE SAFE and WATCH OUT FOR EACH OTHER. You may think that you’re consuming a safe amount of the drug, but you’re still putting something into your body that should not be in your body and you don’t know how you’ll react. The human body is essentially a fine-tuned chemical reaction and you are introducing a new reactant that can totally shift the equilibrium past a threshold for the body to function. You don’t know if the drug is more or less pure than the drug that you had last time, so you may think you’re taking a safe dose, but you may not be. The formulation of drugs changes especially when they’re illegal and non-regulated drugs. Or you might just get carried away in the heat of the moment and consume too much. If you have a drug problem, please ask for help. Your loved ones will thank you. No high is worth risking your life. I repeat, NO HIGH IS WORTH RISKING YOUR LIFE.

I’ve always known that drug overdosage is a problem, but I now have a face to put to it. We were never friends, but we were classmates, and now he is someone that I will never forget. RIP.

This is reposted from my old blog, premdphdlife.wordpress.com. Today would have been his 22nd birthday, so I think it’s appropriate to post it again in my new more permanent blog. Thinking of you, bud.

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Hanna is a MD/PhD student at the University of Illinois and an aspiring physician scientist who aims to specialize in hepatobiliary cancers. She is also passionate about teaching, leadership, and advocacy. The energy she once used to pep up crowds as a college marching band member is now directed toward exciting and educating others about science and medicine, especially through her tweets at @MDPhDToBe and her blog at www.mdphdtobe.com.

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