Danielle Smoot wants no parent to go through the horror of finding their child dead from an overdose of prescription drugs.
Smoot found her 16-year-old son, Cole Smoot, not breathing in his bed in February 2011, a day after he told his parents and doctors he took a methodone pill given to him by a friend.
That friend, Michael Allen, said he believes it’s also his job to keep Cole’s legacy alive.
“When I found that out, I started freaking out because everything inside of me was screaming. ‘It’s your fault,’ ” Allen said.
Cole’s death — one of 789 unintentional prescription opioid deaths in Ohio that year — caught his family off-guard.
“Cole was a good kid who had the support of his friends and his family, so I probably felt a false sense of security in that,” she said. “Cole probably never thought that it would happen to him. But every kid is susceptible.”
Cole’s death was even more shocking because his mother, who recently retired from military service at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, was studying to be a nurse at the time.
She still wonders why Cole, an honor roll student and athlete, took the drug and how it ended up in the hands of some teens at Tecumseh High School.
“The drugs were in the schools for more than 24 hours before Cole got a hold of them. Many, many, many kids had them and many knew,” Smoot said.
After Cole’s death she would discover the pills were stolen from the home of a man who had lost his wife to cancer.
“I’m angry at the decision he made,” Smoot said.
She has taken that anger and turned it into something constructive.
Her family has partnered with Family Youth Initiatives and the Clark County Prosecutor’s Office to provide an awareness program called Cole’s Warriors. The program is designed to educate the public about the dangers of abusing prescription drugs.
Her hope is that people will know that everyone is at risk for abusing prescription drugs. “The affluent areas are just as much at risk as the inner cities. And I would say, so even more because of the availability of the drugs,” Smoot said. “There are a lot more in the homes.”
Allen said he gave Cole the pill after he asked for it.
“(Cole) had heard that I was passing some (pills) around and came up to me and asked me for some,” Allen said.
Allen, who is now a Wright State University student, said he got the pills from another teen who had told him and others that he got them from his grandmother’s house. This teen then asked Allen and the others if they wanted to help sell the drugs and make money for Spring Break.
“Of course, we said, yeah. We weren’t really thinking about the consequences at that point.” Allen said. “Didn’t think it was going to affect anyone around us. We were just being selfish at that point. I took a pretty decent amount of pills and passed them around the school.”
Smoot said she noticed something different about her son after he came home that day. Cole had pinpoint pupils, was shaking and was slurring his words, according to his mother.
When she inquired about his behavior, he at first told her that he had taken Percocet. After Smoot and her husband took him to the hospital, Cole admitted to a doctor that he took methodone. He became nauseous and sick.
“They told us before discharging Cole that he was out of the danger zone, that he was fine. So when Cole got home, he couldn’t keep any food down, so we thought that the very best thing for us to do is have him sleep off the effects of the drug,” Smoot said.
Before he went to bed Cole told his mother that he was sorry for taking the drug. Then they prayed.
The next morning, Smoot found Cole not breathing.
Allen said that he thought to himself, “You could have stopped this, but you didn’t.”
Besides school visits to share Cole’s story, Cole’s Warriors promotes voluntary drug screening, the use of prescription drug drop off boxes and the use of TipSubmit, which is a mobile app that allows tipsters to anonymously report drug activity.
For more information visit coleswarriors.org.