The Tragedy of Drug Abuse: One Teen’s Story

What follows is at once both a unique story and a universal occurrence in the United States and in much of the world. Here, a 16-year-old young man died from an apparent drug overdose for which both his mother and grandmother are being criminally charged.

Andrew Frye, 16, of Akron, Ohio was found dead of an apparent heroin overdose in a Super 8 motel room in Green, Ohio by his mother, Heather Frye on April 8, 2016.

Frye and her mother, Andrew’s grandmother, Brenda Frye, 52, had just hours before picked up the teen from the home of his great-aunt and guardian, Tammy Smith, to go swimming at a motel in Green. Smith was reluctant to allow the Frye women to take Andrew with them, but Andrew was insistent on spending time with his mother.

At 6:45 p.m. Frye called 911, panicked and tearful, saying she and friend Jessica Irons had just awoke from a nap, finding Andrew’s lifeless body. Earlier, the two women and Andrew used drugs in that motel room, Andrew sent to the bathroom to inject because his mother didn’t like to watch him do so.

Andrew Frye, 16, of Akron, Ohio died April 8, 2016 from an apparent heroin overdose

Andrew Frye, 16, of Akron, Ohio died April 8, 2016 from an apparent heroin overdose (Image credit: https://twitter.com/CleClinicMD/status/718655690399621120)

In her 911 call, Heather Frye said, “Can I pick him up and hold him please? … I want to hold him. I just want my baby back,” after saying it had to be a drug overdose that caused her son’s death.

Smith, 54, had taken custody of Andrew when he was six months old. Together she and her fiance, John Sabini raised him until Sabini died of natural causes in 2010. Smith’s 30-year-old son, David Smith, said that Sabini’s death was a difficult time in Andrew’s life.

Tammy Smith’s 33-year-old daughter, Julie Andrea, told reporters that after Sabini’s death, Andrew began to seek out his biological mother. Andrea explained, “ He just wanted his mother and to be around [her] no matter how bad it was. He wanted her to stop. He thought that if he was with her when she was using, at least he was with her.”

Heather Frye was first arrested in connection with drugs when her son was 3-years-old. Frye spent a total of about 2 years in prison in various stints between 2007 through 2014. Robert Corn, Frye’s former boyfriend, said that the tragedy of addiction and drug abuse in the family began with Brenda Frye, who, he said, got Heather into using drugs with her, something that was already decades long in its history.

During the years since Sabini’s death, Andrew’s mother would show up to Smith’s house to take her son for a visit every 6 months to a year. As often happens with drug addicts, Heather Frye promised Smith and her son that she was no longer using drugs, that the future held bright things for her and her son.

Heather Frye and Brenda Frye have been charged with involuntary manslaughter in the death of Andrew Frye, along with evidence tampering, corrupting another with drugs and child endangerment. Jessica Irons, 34, and Donald Callaghan, 58, have also been charged in connection with the teenager’s death.

The Summit County medical examiner, Dr. Lisa Kohler, confirmed that preliminary reports revealed both heroin and Fentanyl in the teen’s blood. If heroin is confirmed as the cause of death, Andrew Frye’s death would be the youngest victim of the heroin epidemic in Summit County since 2014.

Fentanyl, like heroin, is an opiate drug, but up to 50 times stronger than heroin. Drug dealers are known to sometimes put Fentanyl in with heroin to increase its potency, often without the buyer or user’s knowledge.

This is one family’s tragedy, but it’s a tragedy that is repeated multiple times each day in the United States and around the world. It isn’t always about one family member getting another into drug use, but that, too, happens. Imagine just about any scenario and it’s likely to have happened.

Fact: Nearly 30,000 people in the United States alone died from prescription drug overdoses in 2014.

Fact: 20,000 of those prescription drug overdose deaths in 2014 were from opioid painkillers.

Fact: More than 10,000 people in the U.S. died from heroin overdoses in 2014.

(Information obtained from DrugAbuse.gov)

Numbers tell only one part of the story, the dry and statistical facts associated with drug abuse and addiction. Behind each of those numbers was an individual who was someone’s child, perhaps also a parent his or her self, a sister or a brother, a friend, and likely to have been a contributing member of society before drug use prohibited it.


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