March 15, 2006 — -- Linda Surks remembers her son Jason as a good-natured kid who made friends easily. "He was always compliant and accommodating, and just a real pleasant person," she said.
So when Linda and her husband, Mark, got a call telling them their son Jason, a 19-year-old sophomore at Rutgers University, was in the hospital, they had no idea what to expect.
"We thought he had come down with something and really didn't have any idea when we got to the hospital," Surks said.
They were told their son had died of a drug overdose.
"It was a double whammy," she explained. "To hear that your child has passed away, but to hear it happened the way it did was a total shock. I had no clue he was abusing."
That's because Jason didn't buy typical street drugs from some corner dealer. He got his fix from the Internet, the latest front in the war on drugs.
"After we collected his belongings from the university we went through his computer and we found some Mexican pharmacy Web sites that he had visited," Surks said. "We also found some evidence of an account that he had with one of these pharmacies."
Jason's death was a tragic irony for Linda, who works for the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence. "I work in prevention," she said. "That's a pretty telling statement to have to make -- that I know what to look for, I know how to talk to my kids about drugs and he really kept it very well hidden from us."
What most young people don't know is that prescription drugs like Xanax, when abused, can be as addictive and lethal as heroin.
"There's no fear of prescription drugs," said Steve Liga, executive director of the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence of Middlesex County, N.J.
Liga said the Internet has the potential to change the way the younger generation gets hooked on drugs. "What we used to see before the Internet was that prescription drugs were a later-stage addiction," he explained. These users typically worked their way up through marijuana, cocaine and heroin, and were considered hardcore addicts who stole their drugs from a pharmacy or diverted them from a doctor.