I haven’t felt like writing for the past few days. The wind was taken out of my sails a few days ago, when a patient’s mother called to tell me that her son died from a drug overdose. She told me to use the information in any way that I could, in order to keep someone else from dying.
I have had several patients—all young men—who eventually died from their addictions. Each time that I have heard the news, I wanted to stay away from work, the phone, the computer—everything seems so heavy, so useless, and so sad.
The grief of their parents is so great, and I have nothing to say to make them feel better. In each case I think through everything that occurred, trying to find something that I could have done differently. I know that in most of the cases, the parents have done the same, over and over again.
In case any of the parents are reading this column, I want to say very clearly that you did all that you could. There have been times in my practice when I felt that parents were too harsh or too easy on their children. But in all of the cases I am thinking about now, the parents were about as perfect as they could have been—and yet in spite of their efforts, their children died. That the parents cared so much, and handled everything so well, makes the outcomes particularly frightening.