One pill, one time, no second chances
Cole’s story is reprinted by the permission of his mother, Danielle Smoot. It is a powerful story of a single fatal mistake made by a young man in Carlisle, Ohio. There will be a follow up article next month by Washington County Behavioral Health Board Member Larry Hall. The article will illustrate the local impact of drugs and alcohol on our community. It will contain stories of local community members.
Cole Ryan Smoot was a typical 16-year-old sophomore at Tecumseh High School in New Carlisle, Ohio. He was extremely bright and enrolled in honors classes, although he liked to “skate by” doing the least little bit required to still maintain his place on the honor roll. He was a wrestler who was in love with his sport, and an active member of the Junior Air Force Reserve Officer Training Cadet (ROTC) program for the second year. He was a great friend to many, protector of the innocent, an amazing older brother, and a loving son.
Cole was an adventurous child who was continually in search of the next big adventure. While some of his more creative feats landed him in the emergency room, they all led to lasting memories that evoke a smile when retold. He had a spunk and zest for life that was evident in the twinkle in his eyes and the impish grin continually plastered on his face. His personality was larger than his 5’4″ body could contain.
On Feb. 12, 2011, Cole decided to join his friends in what would be his last adventure. That evening, Cole, for the first and last time, decided to take a prescription drug that was not his. When displaying symptoms of drug ingestion, his parents took him to the emergency room where he was tested, evaluated, and released. A few short hours later, Cole was found dead, lying in his bed. He had stopped breathing sometime during the night. Cole took Methadone, and just one pill killed him. One bad decision ended his life.
Cole was not alone though in this adventure. The friend who gave him the pill also made a bad decision. While many say he is lucky when compared to Cole, he has a much more difficult road to travel, he has to live. He has to live with the knowledge of his role in Cole’s death. He has to live with a lifetime of regret and “what ifs”. His future is still before him, but it is a much different one than previously imagined.
The story does not end there. What about the friends that knew Cole had the prescription pills? As many as 20 teens knew the drugs were in the school and being distributed the day before they got into Cole’s hands. Many of his own friends knew Cole had them. Not one person told a trusted adult who could have easily prevented this tragedy. They are the victims of being an “innocent bystander” who thought someone else should tell someone. Many have since confessed to being afraid of losing his friendship, but little did they know their loss would be so much more than they ever dreamed. Innocence was lost that night. A friend was lost that night. A community became heartbroken, and a family is shattered.
What Cole and his friends did not know is that prescription drugs can be more deadly than illegal ones. There is a misconception that since a doctor prescribes the pills, they must be safe. Not only are prescription drugs deadly, they are prolific. They can be found in almost every medicine cabinet, in most homes, and are rapidly ending up in the hands of too many teens.
Cole thought he was bulletproof. He thought he was immune from the dangers and consequences of taking drugs. This tragedy all comes down to one bad choice, one bad decision. Cole got the easy way out; it is his family and friends that must live with his decision for life. It is their burden to bear and their hearts that are crushed. He is not the one who has to face a future without a son, without a brother. Cole does not have to live with the fallout of his choice, his friends do. He does not have to live with the knowledge of the high price that was paid due to his bad decision and everyone’s silence.
One bad decision with drugs can end a life!
Miriam R. Keith is consumer support coordinator of the Washington County Behavioral Health Board, 344 Muskingum Drive, Marietta, 45750. Behavioral Health Matters appears the last Saturday of the month on the Opinion page.