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Grieving mom spreads word on drug woes

Published May 11. 2013 09:02AM

Brett Flexer was randomly drug tested to wrestle at the college level. He was drug tested for summer employment throughout high school and college and always passed.

Yet, it was a drug that killed Brett at the young age of 20.

Brett died two years ago. He had been to a party, snorted a pain killer called Opana with two friends, drank alcohol, went home, went to bed, and never woke up.

The two friends were more fortunate. They survived.

Brett's mom, Karen, chooses not to cover-up her son's death or the manner in which he died. Instead, she has taken on a mission of educating others and even pushing for state legislation to better control access to drugs like Opana by young people.

Last year, State Representative Doyle Heffley proposed legislature that would establish a "Pharmaceutical Accountability Monitoring System," and impose penalties.

Karen traveled to Harrisburg and testified for the passage of the bill.

The bill was never voted on, and wasn't reintroduced. Heffley had stated the state didn't have the money to enforce it.

In her testimony, Flexer said, "I would like to tell you why I am here and why I think the passage of this legislation is important. My life changed forever on April 23, 2011, when I found my 20 year old son Brett had passed away in his sleep. Before I talk about how he died, let me tell you about how he lived."

She told state legislators how he worked hard, was a successful wrestler, loved sports and outdoor activities, became a "gym rat," and was obsessed with his diet and physical fitness.

He was also a good student who kept his grades up.

"His life was falling into place so effortlessly," Karen testified. "He was in college pursuing his dream of criminal justice. He even started talking about going for a double major as his interest in psychology increased."

She mentioned how he went to the party and shared the Opana pill, which, she testified, "is related to morphine in the same fashion that oxycodone is to codeine. Opana is approximately six to eight times more potent than morphine."

Brett was told he was taking Percocet, she testified.

She related how she found her son unconscious, and how he was pronounced dead in his home.

"This one lapse in judgment, whether through peer pressure or clouded judgement through alcohol consumption had catastrophic consequences," she said.

She added, "My athletically gifted son, a physical fitness fanatic who was never in trouble, was not a drug user and quite simply put was a good kid, paid the ultimate price for one bad decision."

She pleaded to the state lawmakers, "It is my hope that no family has to go through what we have gone through. That is the reason I come before you today to support House Bill 1651. This legislation would go a long way in establishing a traceable trail when suspected abusive prescription drug dispensing is alleged."

Last month, she spoke to a group of parents in Penn Forest Fire Company about the perils of prescription drugs illegally getting into the hands of young people.

Just like she told the state legislators, she also related in Penn Forest the details surrounding her son's death, and the horrible consequences it created.

"I am here to tell you there is a major drug problem in our community and it needs to be addressed," she said. "My son's story is proof of this. These young adults are taking unprescribed medications and other drugs, sometimes mixing them with alcohol, and they have no idea the effect it has on their bodies."

She added, "If this can happen to my family and to my son, it can happen to anyone. In Brett's case, there were no signs of any drug abuse because he did not have a drug addiction. This drug problem is not prejudice. It doesn't care what gender you are, what social class you are in, or your age.

"We as a community need to come together and do something about this problem. I don't want to see another family go through what my family will have to continuously go through for the rest of our lives."

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