Story of Young Man’s Addiction Reveals Where Teens Get Drugs

pillsZach Crotty lived in Buffalo, New York with his family. He started using marijuana and pills in middle school and he died of an overdose before he was twenty. His parents documented his years spent addicted and his efforts to recover, using his own words and their observations. There are many such stories but what this particular story provides is insight into where teens may start getting their drugs.

Zach doesn’t mention where he got the marijuana he started with at age 14, just that he asked a friend to share it with him. But he does reveal where he got his first pills.

Morphine: A friend stole it from her aunt. Given to Zach for free.

OxyContin (oxycodone): Another friend stole it from her father. Given to Zach for free.

Lortab (hydrocodone): Yet another friend stole these pills from her father.

He got these daily for free for awhile. He then progressed to cocaine at 15.

Cocaine: The girl who stole the OxyContin gave him a gram.

When he was 16, his drug use escalated. He was heavily abusing pills now, consuming so many that he could no longer get them for free. He found his own connections for drugs, starting with OxyContin and then heroin.

Heroin: His connection for OxyContin gave him two bags of heroin to try.

At 17, he tried crack cocaine. He was smoking it for the first time on the street in West Buffalo when a SWAT team rolled in to arrest someone nearby.

By the time Zach was a high school senior, he was the one providing pills to other students at his school. He was arrested outside the school with two-and-a-half morphine pills in his pocket.

As He Became Addicted, His Life Began to Slide

Of course Zach’s behavior and schoolwork suffered greatly. He grew distant from his parents. After the arrest, he was required to see a counselor on a regular schedule. He said that he was always late for class because he was in the bathroom crushing a pill. He consistently left school at lunch so he could smoke, not specifying if he meant cigarettes or marijuana. When he was high, he also often fell asleep during class. He never attended any school functions or after-school activities, something he later regretted.

The meetings with the counselor went nowhere and Zach was referred to a drug rehab program. He told the counselor he was abusing Lortabs, as many as 10 a day, plus codeine and OxyContin. This was all before he graduated from high school.

The same year, he wrote a poem about his life and addiction. In part, it says:
“If you’re on drugs – QUIT
in memory of me
live your life drug free
the way it was meant to be
I knew my destiny
it was to go through s**t
learn from it
and help others get through it
not quite a role model
more of an example.”

Zach Begins Treatment with Addiction Doctor

After he left the counselor, his parents found an addiction doctor to treat him. Zach described his drug use at that time:

Morphine 100 mg until he lost his source, followed by OxyContin, followed by Lortab and OxyContin every day, as many as 10 per day. Also heroin, a bag or two snorted every day. Some methadone and Suboxone.

Both methadone and Suboxone are used in addiction treatment programs and are sometimes sold by the people in treatment so they can get the drugs they really want.

He’d get his two bags of heroin in exchange for $20 and providing a ride to an unidentified girl. His parents knew about the pills but not about the heroin and Zach didn’t want them to know about it.

He wrote another poem about this time.

“Overdosing in my sleep
I’ve come to expect it.
But also expect that
I’ll be resurrected.”

Was he talking about being revived with naloxone, the drug that reverses opioid overdoses? We have no way of knowing.

While he was in treatment, he was regularly tested for drug abuse. He tested positive for Xanax, morphine, Lortab, fentanyl, and Adderall, the drug prescribed for study attention problems and often abused by those trying to catch up on their study assignments.

Zach entered in-patient rehab but left before completing the program He then started out-patient treatment. He struggled to stay clean, succeeding at times but then failing. In the middle of the night one time, he made a list of all the drugs he had taken that day.
Percocet (oxycodone) – 15 mg
Lortab (hydrocodone) – 30 mg
Morphine – 15mg
Clonopin (clonazepan) 1 mg
Xanax (alpralozam) 1 mg
Ecstasy – 2 pills
Ambien (an addictive sleep aid) – 12.5 mg.
Dexymothipneridate (another drug prescribed for problems focusing on study) – 5 mg.

Efforts at Recovery and Finally, Overdose

Zach made many attempts at recovery and his parents searched for the best way to help him. In the end, it was an overdose of methadone accompanied by Xanax and a prescribed antidepressant that killed him. It’s easy to OD on methadone because it stays in the body such a long time. If a person takes an additional dose before the body can clear the earlier dose, he can accumulate too much methadone in his body which can then slow his breathing to the point of death. It was 2009. He was only 19 years old.

Zach’s parents compiled this report from his writings, songs and counseling reports in an effort to spare other parents this pain. It’s important to note that Zach’s parents did not know he was abusing drugs until the arrest outside his school. Teens become very secretive when they start using drugs. When he was arrested, his parents began to keep a closer eye on him but, as his mother said, “We really didn’t understand drugs and addiction. I wanted to trust him.”

The complete story about Zach can be read here:

Learning from Zach’s Story

What can we learn from this young man’s story? We learn that family prescriptions are being stolen and that some young people start their drug problems and eventual addictions this way. It’s vital that pills be locked up when they are not being accessed by the patient. Yes, it’s inconvenient but it could save a person’s life.

It’s also vital to get rid of pills that are no longer needed. Many police stations and some drugstores have locked disposal boxes. Call your local police department and ask.

To help families avoid this same kind of tragedy, Narconon created the booklet 14 Rules You Must Never Break When Dealing with Addiction. That booklet is available for free download here:

If you have any questions about how to deal with the addiction of a loved one, call Narconon at 1-877- 936-7435. We can help.

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About Sue Birkenshaw

Sue Birkenshaw has worked in the addiction field with the Narconon network for three decades. She has developed and administered drug prevention programs worldwide and worked with numerous drug rehabilitation centers during this time. Sue is currently the Deputy Executive Director for Narconon Ojai.

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