Justin Veatch's Story: Suburban Heroin Overdose Highlights Drug's Pervasiveness

Veatch

Justin Veatch should be graduating from Yorktown Heights High School next weekend. A talented musician and skateboarder, the 17-year-old planned to attend music college, but that goal that was cut short last fall when a heroin overdose claimed his life.

On Monday, Sept. 8, as the alarm clock sounded in their Yorktown Heights, N.Y., home, Justin's mother, Marina Veatch, tried to wake her son.

"I went in and I turned the alarm off. And I said, 'Justin, get up. It's time to get up and go to school,'" Marina Veatch said.

But Justin didn't stir.

"And then I realized there was a problem. He wasn't responsive," she said.

Justin's Story

Justin started playing the keyboard at 4 years old and then moved on to the piano. His talent developed quickly and he was soon producing sophisticated musical arrangements in the little basement studio of a bungalow on his tree-lined street.

"He had a tremendous capacity to hear music and to produce music," said Justin's father, Jeffrey Veatch.

"I would sit inconspicuously on the staircase and listen to him," Marina Veatch said.

Click here to listen to some of Justin's music.

Marina was always listening in. She was the kind of mom who kept track of everything her son was doing, including his friends and habits.

And so when they suspected their creative teenager was using marijuana, she and her husband tried to draw the line.

"At one time we told him, 'If we find you with pot, you can't go to camp this year,'" Jeffrey said.

But when they later did discover he was using marijuana, they found it hard to punish him. They now see it as a pivotal mistake.

"As things go, everybody's doing it," Jeffrey explained. "He got to go to camp. And that might have been a weakness on our part."

Soon Justin had moved on to harder drugs. He was experimenting with ecstasy and prescription drugs, and at some point even snorting heroin. The heroin, Jeffery said, is what really shocked them.

"Our son trying heroin? Are you kidding me?" Jeffrey said.

Jeffrey and Marina sent their son to a one-month rehab and thought he was cured. But despite their best efforts and his promises, the drug use continued.

Learning Lessons from Justin's Tragedy

And what his parents didn't know, his friends kept secret.

Rachel Czipo, 18, was one of the last friends to see Justin on the night he died in his sleep. She didn't know all that Justin was doing but she and other friends had an idea that he was experimenting with heavier drugs.

"A lot of artists talk about how, how it can open up your mind, and he was just so into experiencing every different part of the world," she said. "And I think that it was more for that reason than trying to escape."

Rachel says many of his friends thought Justin would know his limits.

"His friends kind of thought of him as somebody who could handle all this," she said.

"I just miss him," Rachel said. "He's just so different and so caring and accepting. Nobody can say a bad word about Justin, nobody. And they never have been able to, because he was just really a beautiful person."

Justin's parents hope others can learn from their tragedy.

Noting that Justin had withdrawn from some of his core friends, Jeffrey said, "when children have friends that you don't know, that's possibly a danger sign."

Marina urged teens not to be afraid to help if they see a friend in trouble.

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