He would do anything for a laugh. She always had a smile on her face. He was a skateboarder. She was pursuing her doctorate. What did they have in common? Their death.
Jim Marshall will be at William Woods University at 6 p.m. Wednesday (March 19) in the Library Auditorium to speak about the dangers of drugs. This is not just another lecture about the importance of saying “no”—this is personal.
Marshall, cross country, track and field coach at Westminster College, previously coached at Jefferson City High School. Two former athletes died of drug overdoses within 19 months—one was his son, Cody. The other, Christine Ricana, had been a member of Marshall’s track team.
The “Invisible Epidemic,” as Coach Marshall refers to it, affects every person, every day. According to the Centers for
Disease Control, more Americans die from drug overdoses than in car accidents, and one person dies every 19 minutes from drug overdose in the United States. In 2010, there were 38,329 drug overdose deaths in the U.S.
Deaths from drug overdose have been rising steadily over the past two decades and have become the leading cause of injury death in the United States. The statistics go on and on, but they were just numbers to Marshall—until one day in September 2011, when they took on a whole new meaning.
Cody had gone to a doctor about his depression in the summer of 2010. A nurse practitioner prescribed him Zoloft. After a while, he decided he didn’t like how it made him feel, so he started taking Xanax he got from friends. The more he took it, the more he wanted it. He became addicted and constantly needed a fix.
Eventually, Cody could no longer afford Xanax at $60 a pill. He searched for other drugs that would give him the same results. He came across heroin. At $10 a hit, it was cheaper than Xanax and produced the same results.
In late September 2011, Marshall was out of town at a track meet with Jefferson City High School. When he came home the next day, he found his son lying on the living room floor, barely breathing.
He called for an ambulance and began performing CPR. Cody was transported to the hospital, where he was in a coma for three days. When the doctors did a neurology test, they found his heart was failing, his blood pressure was dangerously high and he was brain dead.
The Marshall family made the painful decision to take the machines off. Cody was pronounced dead Sept. 27, 2011. He was 20 years old.
The doctors found Xanax, heroin and K2, a form of marijuana, in Cody’s system. He had been with his friends and, just as he had been doing the past year, took a pill and a hit in the name of fun. Except it wouldn’t be fun for anyone this time.
Once he began overdosing, the “friends” he was with were afraid to take him to the hospital for fear of being arrested. Instead they left him on his living room floor and went home to their nice, warm beds. Something Cody would never be able to do again.
Barely more than a year later, on Oct. 13, 2012, Christine Ricana was dead, too. She was 22.
Christine was a bright, young woman, studying for her doctorate in physical therapy at the University of Missouri. Feeling the stress of school, she took Xanax and heroin. The decision cost Christine her life and a promising future.
Drugs have taken the lives of many young people who could have had a profound impact on the world, but their time was cut short. Drugs do not discriminate; they do not differentiate. Any pill can be your last pill; any hit can be your last hit; any bad decision can be your last decision—if you take drugs.
This “Invisible Epidemic” is starting young. It is seeping into middle schools and stripping the innocence from young children. Marshall says one in five sixth graders knows where to get heroin or marijuana. Eight of 10 children who go to juvenile detention are there because of drugs.
They are starting young and are continuing to use throughout their lives. According to Marshall, 75 percent of all criminals are drug addicts. The only way to put a stop to this is to spread the word. That is what Coach Marshall is doing—on behalf of Cody and Christine.