In her mind, Gail Box visualizes prescription drugs as a hand, reaching out and getting a hold of her son.
“That hand reached out, and it comforted him, it made him feel better, it made his pain go away — and then that hand would not let go of him,” she said. “I know he did not set out to die of an overdose, but he couldn't shake that hand off.”
Austin Box died in May 2011 of a drug overdose. He recently had finished his degree and would have been the University of Oklahoma's starting middle linebacker that year. He was 22.
To this day, Gail Box wishes she would have said something to her son. Call it a mother's intuition. She knew something was wrong.
She hopes that a law that went into effect Nov. 1 will help parents aid their children before they have their own tragedy.
House Bill 1782 allows a medical provider to prescribe an opiate antagonist to family members of someone who has a chance of overdosing.
One of the more common types of an opiate antagonist, which counteracts the effects of narcotics, is naloxone.
A naloxone injection works by blocking the central nervous system effects of several types of opiate medications such as morphine, oxycodone, methadone or illegal substances such as heroin, according to the National Institutes of Health.
It's used to prevent or reverse the effects of narcotic overdose, including difficulty breathing, sleepiness, low blood pressure and death, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Gail Box said she knows it can be difficult for parents to have conversations with their children about drug use.
But parents should consider talking to their children and also carrying naloxone if they think it could help save their children's lives, she said.
“I wish, if I could go back, I would try to act on those feelings that I had at that time,” she said. “You can tell me anything you want, but I will always shoulder a great deal of guilt as a result of what happened to my son because as a parent, as a mother, it's my job to protect him, and I didn't.”
House Bill 1782 also allows first responders — law enforcement, EMTs and firefighters — to administer naloxone without a prescription to people who are showing signs of an opiate overdose. Before the law passed, first responders were required to have a prescription from a doctor to carry the drug.
State officials still are working out the details of how first responders will be trained to use naloxone.
Targeting more than chronic abusers
Terri White, the commissioner of the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, said although the law is targeted at people who are struggling with prescription drug addiction, not everyone who overdoses is a chronic abuser.