3 On Your Side Investigates: A Parent's' Nightmare - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

3 On Your Side Investigates: A Parent's' Nightmare

Source: Family Source: Family
Source: Family Source: Family
Source: WLBT Source: WLBT
Source: WLBT Source: WLBT
Source: WLBT Source: WLBT
COPIAH COUNTY, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

"He was an extremely popular kid. Very athletic, very smart, says Dennis Harper, Sr.

"He had an old soul. He had a contagious personality," says Teresa Harper.

Dennis and Teresa are talking about Devin Harper, one of their four children. He had been a quarterback at Copiah Academy, and he had thrived at East Mississippi Community College with a near-perfect grade point average. 

But he had a secret Dennis and Teresa didn't know about. 

"We didn't know he was taking Adderall until September of last year," said Dennis. "The first time he took it, he was 16 years old. He was at a friend's house. No change until he went from East to Mississippi State. That's when his grades started going down. We thought he was just taking too much on." 

In 2015 at age 21, Devin withdrew from MSU, moved home and went to Mississippi College. But soon he would withdraw from school altogether. He moved out to live with one of his brothers in Vicksburg. Dennis and Teresa still didn't know he was abusing a prescription drug. But after a suicide attempt in November 2016, Devin confessed. 

"He said he wanted help. That's when he told us he was addicted to Adderall," Dennis said.  

Devin had a four-day stay at an inpatient facility, but it didn't solve the problem. 

"When we went to visit him, he had never had a one-on-one sit-down with a doctor. He had group therapy, but no one ever sat down with him and talked to him as a person," Teresa says. 

Through December, Devin seemed to do well. But in January, he began using again. It culminated on January 16, when he used a gun to take his own life at a hunting camp. 

"They found the drugs with him in the stand," Dennis said. "Looking at it now after it happened, everything is so obvious." 

"We have an epidemic in Mississippi," said Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics Director John Dowdy. He's not talking about Adderall alone; he's talking about the abuse of all highly addictive prescription drugs throughout the state, among people of all ages.  

Adderall is prescribed for Attention Deficit Disorder and can help a user focus, which is much different than painkillers like Oxycontin or Lorcet, but similar in that it's a Schedule II controlled substance that's addictive and potentially destructive. Adderall can cause delirium and psychosis if abused.

Batson Children's Hospital Emergency Physician Justin Davis says young people taking drugs that aren't prescribed to them often don't realize the consequences. 

"They may not know how much to take, or they may intentionally be taking too much in order to get a desired effect. So it actually can become quite dangerous and deadly," said Dr. Davis. 

Parents be warned: prescription pills are easy to slip in a book bag and take to school. 

"No one's gonna suspect anything if you pop one, walk by the water fountain, take a drink," said Dowdy. 

If you have old drugs on hand you want to get rid of, you can find drop-off boxes inside some local police and highway patrol departments. Dowdy says old drugs should be destroyed, not flushed, as that puts them back into the water system.

And the advice for parents is simple: talk to your kids if you suspect anything is wrong. Dennis and Teresa say they might open up to you. 

"If it can happen to Devin, I promise it can happen to anybody," said Dennis. 

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