Generation Rx

Adrift in a sea of psychotropic pharmacology, it's easy for a kid to drown
May 19, 2005
Glenna Whitley
 Source: The Dallas Observer
 Generation Rx
 Adrift in a sea of psychotropic pharmacology, it's easy for a kid  to drown.
 By Glenna Whitley

 You couldn't miss him: a teenager dressed always in black, with Elvis
 sideburns and a hard-charging way of bounding up the stairs, as if 
 life were  moving too slowly for him. In the same class as my oldest son at 
 the Science  and Engineering Magnet at Townview, occasionally at our house for 
 all-night  LAN parties, Luke Stone was likable, smart and had an appetite for
 adventure, the guy willing to try anything once. He was a natural 
 leader, a  person who drew people from all walks of life into his orbit with 
 his energy  and enthusiasm.
 He also had a sweet side. He'd grown up going to church and carried a
 picture of Jesus in his wallet. He was drawn to beautiful, troubled
 girlfriends who needed rescuing. Luke Stone was your basic good kid.
 But on May 14 a year ago, when Luke was a 20-year-old student at the
 University of Texas at Dallas, his daring nature killed him. The 
 coroner's  verdict: accidental drug overdose.
 This isn't another "drugs are bad for you" story. It is a trip into 
 another  world, one far different from that of Luke's parents--even though 
 they'd  grown up in the '60s and '70s and had their own encounters with 
 illegal drugs. David and Sondra Stone viewed their experimentation, 
 particularly with marijuana, as a normal part of growing up. They didn't want 
 their kids to become addicts, of course, but as long as they stayed away from 
 "hard drugs" like cocaine and heroin, they figured the kids would come 
 out all  right, just like they had. 

 Luke Stone's parents know that isn't true anymore. They didn't 
 realize the  landscape of substance abuse has radically changed.
 Today, kids Luke's age swim in a sea of psychotropic pharmacology-- 
 pills, potions and powders legally prescribed for everything from 
 depression to  attention deficit disorder. When they want to get high, they're 
 more likely  to turn to benzodiazepines, a class of drugs like Valium that treat 
 anxiety and panic attacks. Instead of shooting heroin, they score synthetic 
 opiates such as Vicodin, Percocet, Dilaudid or Tylenol with codeine. To get 
 a buzz or pull an all-nighter for an exam, they pop pills like Ritalin and
 Adderall, amphetamines that treat ADD.
 It makes sense. You don't have to find a drug dealer to get Xanax. 
 You just have to rummage in Mom's medicine chest. You don't need to sneak 
 around to  score Adderall. A pediatrician prescribed it because you were 
 driving your  teachers crazy. Why not trade a few Adderall to your roommate, 
 under the  care of a psychiatrist for panic disorder, for some of his Xanax?
 If you get caught--well, parents who discover a kid snitching a 
 Lortab react  differently from those who find a crack pipe or syringe.
 The explosion in pharmaceuticals has been magnified by the 
 Internet. Not only are there more psychotropic drugs to choose from, it's easier 
 than ever to learn what to take, how much to take and what effects to 
 anticipate. Luke scoured sites like"documenting the complex 
 relationship between humans and psychoactives"--for information and "trip reports" on 
 everything from peyote to Percocet. From there, teens are one click away from an
 illegal online pharmacy, a cyber medicine cabinet offering quick, 
 discreet  delivery.
 A 2004 study at Columbia University found that only 6 percent of 
 157 Web sites selling medications actually required a prescription. And 
 last month the DEA arrested 20 people, from Tyler, Texas, to Bombay, India, as 
 part of "Operation Cyber Chase," targeting an illegal international ring that used
 more than 200 Web sites to distribute prescription narcotics, 
 amphetamines  and steroids.
 Web sites to replace them will pop up overnight like psilocybin 
 mushrooms sprouting in a cow patty.
 Fascinated by illicit pharmaceuticals, Luke created a "drug log" of 
 those he'd tried and their effects. He wasn't alone. Most of his friends 
 at UTD used pills--in addition to the college mainstays of pot and 
 alcohol--and turned to Luke for information. He knew what medications could be 
 taken together and what to stay away from. "Luke was so smart," one 
 friend says. Intelligence, experimentation and a young man's belief in his own
 immortality seduced Luke into believing he knew what he was doing 
 and could control the outcome. But dead people don't post trip reports on the Internet.

 At age 13, Luke Stone spent 17 days in Australia and New Zealand, 
 one of the kids chosen for a "student ambassador" program. "He came home a 
 different kid, a world traveler, you know," says his mother, Sondra Stone 
 Fishman, who works out of her Oak Cliff home doing computer billing for doctors. 
 Talking about Luke, Sondra flashes between pride and sudden grief, in a 
 place she calls "beyond tears."
 The older of her two sons, Luke had never been ordinary: whip- 
 smart, reading before he went to kindergarten, playing chess at 7. They finally 
 put Luke in a Montessori school to challenge him more. An athlete built like a 
 brick outhouse, stocky and strong, Luke was the kid who had to be the 
 pitcher in baseball or the goalie in roller hockey. He thrived on being in the 
 pressure point, the one who made the difference in the game.
 "Luke had tremendous drive," says his father, David Stone. 
 "Wherever he was going, he was going there like a steam engine. I was proud of him."
 But David says his oldest son was always a challenge to raise.
 Luke would debate anyone about anything. "His mind was so quick," 
 David says. "Luke believed he could outthink you. That's what got him into
 trouble. He wasn't as smart as he thought he was."
 David and Sondra married in 1983. After Luke was born a year later, 
 Sondra became a stay-at-home mom and loved it. Sondra--not Luke--cried the 
 first day she dropped him off at preschool.
 The couple divorced in the mid-'90s after years of discord. One 
 conflict, David says, was disciplining their strong-willed son. David, a 
 military veteran, thought Luke needed tough love. A self-described former 
 hippie, Sondra believed in a softer approach.
 Luke's computer and math skills got him accepted at the Science and
 Engineering Magnet at Townview, recently named by Newsweek the 
 sixth-best school in the nation for its percentage of students passing Advanced
 Placement or International Baccalaureate tests. Luke wanted to study
 computer science and get an internship with Texas Instruments. If 
 Luke was a bit of a nerd, though, he was also recognized as an outspoken leader.
 Girls loved him. He was self-assured, cool, the guy who would 
 instigate trouble at the back of the room then sit back and enjoy the 
 fallout. By ninth grade, Luke had adopted a man-in-black persona. He got a 
 couple of piercings and spent evenings flailing away on his drum set as rap or
 alt-metal music by Static-X and Rob Zombie blasted from his room.
 He also went to a Disciples of Christ church with his mother and 
 younger brother every week, and it was at church camp the summer after his 
 freshman year that he first got caught with pot. Luke claimed the marijuana 
 found in his backpack belonged to another kid. Though their minister and the 
 camp director vouched for his story, Luke and the other boy were charged 
 with possession. Luke and his mother had to attend counseling sessions 
 once a week for a while.
 Sondra and David had grown up in the '60s and were no strangers to 
 drug use.  They sometimes marveled that they were lucky to have made it 
 through their teenage years more or less unscathed. Though she was upset, Sondra's
 attitude toward Luke's transgression was more laissez-faire than 
 David's, "because I did it and enjoyed it thoroughly." Luke seemed to be 
 maintaining his grades, so if he was getting high, he was handling it well. She 
 was more worried about him smoking cigarettes.
 David, who says he abused alcohol as a young adult, took a zero 
 tolerance attitude. "Luke knew I had smoked pot," David says. "We'd sit down 
 to talk about it. To me, pot can lead you on to other drugs. I never got 
 through to him." Luke's argument: Marijuana is natural, no big deal,
 you-did-it-so-what's-the-problem. David looked for opportunities to
 challenge his son about his drug use, but only once or twice did he 
 suspect Luke was high.
 "I needed hard evidence before I confronted Luke," David says. "He 
 only responded to hard evidence." Luke always had a one-word retort: 
 hypocrite.  Even so, David saw Luke as a casual user. Like most parents, he 
 didn't have a clue. Besides, Luke seemed to be on track to get into a good 
 college, especially after passing a handful of AP tests and scoring a 1380 
 on his SAT.
 His friends tell another story. By the end of high school, Luke was 
 smoking pot regularly and occasionally doing mushrooms or sipping over-the- 
 counter  cough syrup containing dextromethorphan (DXM), like Robitussin. 
 Luke loved  altering his reality, not because he felt unhappy--though he was 
 angry at his father about the divorce--but because life was amazing. He 
 admired the  edgy, dangerous life of his idols: rappers and rock stars, alive 
 and dead. "Luke glamorized that whole lifestyle," says "Dennis," one high school
 friend. (All the names of students have been changed.) 
 "He wanted to try everything," says "Corey," another high school 
 friend who smoked pot in high school to deal with academic pressure. "He did it
 first--and more." Sometime after graduation in May 2002, Luke first snorted heroin, 
 courtesy of "Tina," a girl he met through a friend at church.
 Described as a "very hot chick" by Luke's buddies, Tina lived in North
 Richland Hills and was a year older than Luke. During high school, 
 when neither could drive, they talked for hours online. After Tina got her
 license, she'd pick Luke up on Friday and he'd spend the weekends 
 with her family. Sondra didn't know that Tina was a heroin addict who 
 dropped out of high school.
 "I thought she was real sweet," says Sondra, who remarried in 2002, 
 about the time her son started dating Tina. "I thought she was a stable 
 influence for Luke. I never suspected she had a drug problem. What I didn't 
 like was that she wasn't doing anything. She didn't work or go to school. 
 She lived with her parents."
 Every now and then Tina dropped out of sight; Sondra would later 
 learn her son's girlfriend had been in rehab during those times. She now 
 believes that Luke learned a lot about drugs from Tina.
 Luke didn't tell most of his buddies about trying heroin. They 
 looked down on people who used heroin, cocaine and methamphetamines. Stuff that 
 junkies use, that can get you addicted. Though one close friend believed 
 Luke turned  to drugs because of depression, most of the others thought he just 
 enjoyed getting high.
 "I don't think he was addicted," says "Rosemary," who dated a  friend of
 Luke's. "I think he was bored and cocky."

 Among his circle of friends at UTD, Luke became known as the expert on
 illegal and legal drugs, which was saying something. All of them had
 bookmarked, the Web site known for its broad and deep 
 "vaults" of information on recreational drug use. Operated out of California by 
 two people known only as "Earth" and "Fire," Erowid taps into the 
 collective knowledge, experience and enthusiasm of users all over the world.
 Plano police Detective Courtney Perot, who investigates overdoses-- 
 both fatal and nonfatal--consults Erowid regularly. "You have people 
 using the  drug talking about the effects right there," Perot says. "Some of the
 information obtained on these Web sites is beneficial--talking 
 about the dangers of using various drugs. But there are so many different 
 sites out there that advocate and encourage usage."
 You can search Erowid for information on plants, herbs, psychoactives,
 pharmaceuticals, chemicals and new "smart drugs" that supposedly 
 sharpen  your brain. Consider this enthusiastic report from an OxyContin 
 user: "The me the most euphoric high I've ever felt. I have had a 
 lot of experience with other substances and none compare to OC. I never 
 take more than one 40 mg pill crushed and taken orally. The effects usually 
 hit around 45 minutes...The euphoric high will last until I pass out. Smoking 
 weed while on OC intensifies the opiate 'buzz' for me. I won't take OC 
 without weed."
 Many of the experience reports, however, are warnings. And the 
 range of substances seems endless. Take this from a guy who crushed up 
 morning glory  seeds (yes, flower seeds), mixed them with water and drank the 
 potion: "From my experience I CANNOT recommend their use, it was probably the 
 single most unpleasant experience of my life. Ten hours of intense panic, 
 (imagined) suffocation, seemingly endless, painful hurling accompanied by crazy
 delusions that you are going to die and that your organs went 
 through a blender are not my idea of a good time."
 Other popular sites for illicit use include, which 
 caters to the rave/Ecstasy crowd,,,,,,,, and (Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies). 
 These Web  sites weren't meant to be a source of trivia. Teen users and 
 abusers do their research here, in the privacy of their bedrooms.
 In a study released in April, the Partnership for a Drug-Free America
 reported that, for the first time in 17 years, teenagers were more 
 likely to have abused prescription and over-the-counter medications than 
 illicit drugs  like cocaine, Ecstasy, methamphetamines, heroin and LSD. About one 
 in five teens has abused a prescription painkiller to get stoned. Eighteen 
 percent  reported nonmedical use of Vicodin, 10 percent admitted they'd used
 OxyContin and 10 percent Ritalin or Adderall.
 "The current favorite is Xanax," says Gayle Jensen-Savoie, director 
 of Seay  Behavioral Health Center, an adolescent psychiatric and chemical 
 dependency unit in Plano. "It has a numbing effect. If you are overstimulated 
 in so many areas, with Xanax you can handle it all. In the last three 
 months, for the first time we had to detox several kids of Xanax, which we 
 never had to do before. They were probably taking 16 a day. That's a huge 
 amount. That's deadly, and then they drink."
 In 2004 there were 10 fatalities from mixed-drug overdoses recorded in
 Collin County, surpassing those from cocaine or heroin.
 One fascinating source of information is posted by the Drug 
 Enforcement Agency: the Microgram Bulletin, which for 36 years was secretly 
 published for forensic chemists and narcotics officers
 ( The monthly 
 newsletter issues intelligence briefs and alerts describing seizures of street 
 drugs, as well as methods of manufacture and smuggling.
 The DEA decided in 2003 to make the Microgram Bulletin public after
 recognizing the explosion of information and misinformation about 
 illegal drugs on the Internet. The DEA now advertises on Google. Plug in 
 Percocet or  Valium, and a sponsored link to the DEA pops up: "Read Our Consumer 
 Alert Before You Buy Drugs Online. Learn The Law!"
 Luke scoured the Internet to study medications and their effects and
 interactions. "If you wanted to know something, you asked Luke," says
 "Roman," a business major. "He was always known as the experimenter 
 among  us."
 Luke's first introduction to pills apparently occurred between high 
 school graduation and the start of his freshman year in college, when he 
 got a job at UPS. It was hard physical labor with attendant muscle aches; 
 Luke hated the work but liked being around the blue-collar guys who he thought 
 were tough, real, ghetto. UPS cohorts introduced Luke to Percocet, a 
 combination of acetaminophen and oxycodone, an opiate-based painkiller.
 Oxycodone has been around since the '20s, but its use exploded 
 after 1996, when Purdue Pharma began producing the controlled-release pill 
 OxyContin, which is highly addictive. (In 2003 talk-show host Rush Limbaugh 
 went public with his addiction to OxyContin after his name surfaced in a narcotics
 investigation.) Percocet quickly became Luke's drug of choice. Though Luke was 
 still dating Tina, he quit using heroin--cold turkey. He was proud of his 
 willpower. And the pills allowed him to rationalize, minimize and justify his use of
 narcotics. Percocet isn't as bad as heroin. I'm not addicted like Tina. I
 need something to handle the pressure.

 Like Luke, who was majoring in electrical engineering, his friends 
 at UTD were very smart, pursuing degrees in physics, math, engineering and 
 computer science. All of them popped Adderall, an amphetamine, to stay awake 
 through marathon study sessions. Despite its image as a study drug, no more 
 potent than No-Doz, Adderall is a psycho-stimulant, says Jenson-Savoie of 
 the Seay Center. "It increases heart rate, increases blood pressure. If you are
 snorting it, it goes right into your blood. You could blow your  heart out."
 "Jason" says "you don't do Adderall for fun. It just helps you  concentrate
 and stay up two days, drinking energy drinks." But after the tests  were
 over, Luke had to take something to bring him down enough to sleep. 
 For many of the students, that was the major appeal of the drugs that 
 offered sleep such as Soma and Ambien.
 Corey, a physics major, was prescribed Adderall in high school for  ADD but
 rarely took it then. "I hated the way it made me feel," Corey says. "It
 deadens the creative side of you but sharpens the analytical side. 
 I need it to do things like physics, but I hate having to do it. For AP 
 [test] week, I took it and stayed up for three or four days straight. Then I 
 wouldn't take it at all."
 During his freshman year at a college out of state, Corey quit taking
 Adderall, but he filled his prescriptions and sold or traded them 
 to other students. A three-month supply netted 100 pills that he could sell 
 for $3 each. Adderall was more highly prized than Ritalin. "Adderall lasts 
 six or seven hours," Corey says. "It gives you a little high, which can be
 dangerous if you like it. Ritalin lasts two or three hours and  doesn't give
 you a high."

 When Corey moved back to Dallas and enrolled at UTD, the pills went 
 for only $2 each. "The market's so saturated," Corey says. He sold it to his 
 buddies for $1 apiece. Luke was getting a variety of pills from several UTD students and a 
 Dallas  drug dealer whom everybody called "Porn": Percocet, Valium, OxyContin,
 Xanax, Lortab, Soma. He preferred opiates and benzodiazepines  (sedatives,
 muscle relaxants and anti-anxiety medications), but Luke would try 
 almost anything once.
 "If you wanted it," Corey says, "Luke could get it." Luke wasn't 
 trying to  make a lot of money, just support his own use. "He wouldn't give us 
 anything  he hadn't tried himself."
 Pills had several advantages over cocaine, heroin, meth and other 

 easy to take, easy to hide and relatively cheap. Xanax and Valium 
 could be purchased for $2 to $3, with the higher-dosage pills going for a 
 few dollars more. You could buy an evening of Percocet euphoria for $5, though 
 some pills could cost more, depending on supply and demand.
 At first, Corey was afraid of the pills Luke was using, which often 
 had been cut with filler and repackaged by his dealer into generic capsules. 
 "Then I tried Percocet," he says. "I really liked it. You take it and 
 there's no grogginess. I could forget about the anxiety, the depression. That 
 little thing in the back of your head goes away."
 By the middle of their freshman year, many of Luke's friends, even 
 high school holdouts, were smoking pot, eating 'shrooms, drinking 
 alcohol and doing pills. Luke only rarely drank. The same bottle of Chivas 
 Regal sat in his refrigerator for months. Luke knew the dangers of mixing pills and
 booze. "We all researched drugs," Corey says, "but Luke was especially 
 vigilant about it. There's a whole underground, really, of Internet drug 
 users who give their opinions. You learn to trust each other, because they 
 are usually right."
 After injuring his hand at UPS, Luke was out of a job. His mother 
 gave him $100 a week for spending money so he wouldn't have to work; his 
 father was paying his tuition and rent. Though he bought Luke groceries, David 
 resisted giving his son money, trying some tough love to get him to buckle 
 down. "He wasn't going to class," David says. After getting his grades, 
 David tried to take Luke's car away from him. When Luke refused to give 
 him the  keys, David grabbed his son from the front seat and tried to pull 
 him out. Luke backed down. David made Luke sign a contract that he would 
 take at least 13 hours and pass 10, or Dad was ending the room and board.
 The ugly confrontation distressed Sondra. "It got his attention," 
 David says. "But Sondra thought I didn't love Luke."
 Luke used his father's supposed stinginess as an excuse when he 
 bumped up  his sales of pills and weed, mostly schwag, low-grade pot purchased 
 through a guy at UPS. Then Luke converted to selling hydro; one ounce of the
 high-grade pot could sell for $350 to $400. It meant higher profit 
 and lower risk. (Possession of less than two ounces is considered for 
 personal use, not distribution.) But pills were the most profitable.
 Luke and all his buddies heard they could buy pills on the 
 Internet, but none of them did it. "Anthony" once ordered pot on the Internet 
 from Canada; it worked, but he didn't repeat it. He didn't want a drug charge on 
 his record.
 A business major, Anthony finally tried Percocet out of boredom. 
 "It didn't seem to be hurting Luke," Anthony says. "He said it made you feel 
 great. He  was so knowledgeable. He'd rattle off bad combinations and chemical
 structures. He was a walking pharmacist. That was part of the  appeal to him.
 The other appeal--you're not supposed to do it."
 But Anthony didn't want to get in too deep. "People aren't meant to 
 feel that good all the time."

 Luke at first struck "Christopher," an art and film major who 
 transferred to UTD in September 2003, like a character in a comic book: larger 
 than life, with a goatee, spike earrings, sideburns and an "I'm-a-tough-drug-dealer-don't-mess-with-me" pose.
 "Then I realized he was a pretty smart guy," Christopher says. Luke 
 could talk about anything, tailoring his conversation to whomever he was 
 with:  art, music, traveling, math, film and computers.
 Luke turned Christopher on to Percocet. "I took my first one and 
 painted for the better part of a day," he says. "It was like being stoned but 
 not lazy." A day and a half later, Christopher took another one, but his body's
 reaction turned sour. "The entire world felt like different shades 
 of gray, like a dull ache in my head."
 He kept using it anyway. "It was almost like a ritual," he says. 
 "You smoke pot, you do Adderall to study, then do pills, then alcohol on top 
 of it." Nobody worried about overdosing, Christopher says. "Anyone in 
 command of  their faculties can keep from overdosing."
 After partying his way through freshman year, Luke had focused on his
 studies with the help of Jason, a highly motivated student who 
 tutored him  in calculus and several other courses. "He was very intelligent," 
 Jason  says. "His only delusions were chemical."
 By the end of 2003, Luke started making good grades and liked the 

 Before winter break, he broke up with Tina for good. She'd been in 
 and out of rehab, in and out of jail. "She used to love me," he told one 
 friend. "Now she loves heroin." (Again in jail for possession of narcotics, 
 Tina was unavailable for comment.)
 Luke and a friend from high school spent a week over winter break in
 Amsterdam, stoner Shangri-la for its shops where pot and mushrooms are
 legally sold. Luke thought it would be fabulous to travel to a 
 place where he could openly indulge in his favorite pastime. His mother knew 
 that was one reason he was going, but thinking it was a once-in-a-lifetime 
 travel experience, she gave him money anyway. She didn't want Luke smoking 
 pot in the United States because it was illegal, but in Amsterdam, that 
 wasn't an issue.
 At the time, neither Sondra nor David saw any sign that Luke had a 
 serious drug problem. When he told his mother about Tina's addiction, 
 Sondra asked  point-blank if he was using hard drugs. He denied it.
 From Amsterdam Luke brought back photos of rainy streets, bars, old
 buildings and some of their purchases--leggy 'shrooms and marijuana 
 buds with names like Super Silver Haze, Poison, AK-47 and Buddha's 
 Sister--to show the guys back home. He wasn't scoring any pills, though: too 
 risky, he thought.
 A vacation video shot by a friend shows Luke firing up fat blunts, 
 smoking and laughing, smoking and laughing. He seems to be having a great 
 time, except for a hacking cough and one vomiting episode. Too much 
 booze, or withdrawal symptoms? In Dallas, Luke was taking two to four 
 Percocets a day. When he couldn't get the drug or something similar, Luke 
 experienced bouts of vomiting, stomach pains, cold sweats and migraines.
 When he returned to Dallas, there were other signs that his pill 
 habit was getting out of control. "He'd start gradually and take one Xanax," 
 Rosemary says. "Now one doesn't feel as good, so he'd take two." Rosemary 
 noticed that Luke was popping different drugs at the same time to see how they
 interacted with each other. He once passed out with a cigarette in  his mouth
 and burned himself and a couch.
 Still, none of his friends confronted him. Their attitude was: He's 
 Luke. He  knows what he's doing. "I don't think any of us felt it was our 
 place to say  something," Jason says. "Luke was going to do what he was going to 
 do."  And most of his friends were doing it, too. 
 When Luke asked his father for funds to go to Mexico over spring 
 break,  David refused. "The only reason to go to Mexico," David told him, 
 "is sex and drugs." Luke responded with "Well, why did you let me go to 

 David had no answer. "It hit me like 'wham,'" David says, hitting his forehead with a 
 smack. "I knew we had a big problem."

 Christopher remembers thinking sometime after spring break in 2004 
 that Luke, Jason and "Shelley" were taking so many pills, it was like 
 they were  in a "race to see who would screw up first."
 Shelley had been Luke's close friend for four months before they 
 started a  romantic relationship in April. Drug use brought them together at 
 first. On Friday nights, everybody would hang out, pop Percocet and play 
 video games  like City of Heroes. Shelley liked Luke because he was so 
 straightforward and happy-go-lucky. But like some of the drugs they'd tried, 
 Shelley and Luke were a volatile combination.
 From a small town near Austin, Shelley had struggled with 
 depression most of her life. When she was 9, her mother shot herself to death, leaving 
 Shelley to discover the body.
 Though very anti-drug in high school, Shelley had since struggled with
 addiction. During her first semester at UTD, she and her roommate 
 smoked pot  one night. "That's what started it," Shelley says. "I have an 
 addictive personality."

 That led to a brief fling with cocaine abuse. In 2002 Shelley, her 
 roommate and their boyfriends were arrested and charged with possession. The 
 terms of  her probation--monthly drug tests, staying away from other users--kept
 Shelley sober for almost a year.
 But when she started hanging out with Luke in January 2004, Shelley 
 was  again using multiple drugs--some illegal, some prescribed for her by a
 psychiatrist. Diagnosed as bipolar at the beginning of her 
 sophomore year,  Shelley was taking Xanax for panic attacks; Lamactil, a mood 
 stabilizer;  Ambien and other sleep aids for insomnia and night terrors; and a high
 dosage of Seroquel, an anti-psychotic. Sometimes she took them as 
 directed;  other times she would crush a pill and snort it for a more immediate
 reaction. If she had a month before her next drug test, Shelley 
 might smoke  pot. "I used to have hallucinations," Shelley says. "I kept darting my eyes
 around because I was seeing things. There were times when I had to 
 throw  away my car keys or I'd fly away."
 When she got to know Luke, he was regularly using Valium, Percocet,
 Adderall, Xanax and, of course, smoking pot.
 "I saw him take at least nine Adderall a day," Shelley says, "some 
 in the  morning, then a couple of Valium, then more Adderall." Luke used 
 some of  Shelley's medications, too. And when no Percocet was available, he 
 sipped  liquid codeine, the active ingredient in prescription cough syrup, 
 sometimes called "sizzurp" and popular in hip-hop culture. One night before they
 hooked up, Shelley saw Luke crashed on his couch during a party, 
 wiped out  by Valium and sizzurp. The next day he didn't answer his phone. 
 Shelley finally drove to his apartment and pounded on the door until he 
 answered. "He was so white, so pale," Shelley says. "He looked terrible. I 
 think that was the first time he might have accidentally OD'd."
 Shelley later urged Luke to go to the university counseling center. He
 brushed her off. "I don't think it was a physical addiction that 
 drove him,"
 Shelley says. "It was psychological. Stopping would bring him down, 
 so that  he'd think there was something wrong with his head. He thought he 
 might have  a disorder like mine."
 Both knew they needed to quit. Adderall suppresses the appetite, so 
 they weren't eating, and their sleep schedule had turned upside down. If 
 they could just get through the end of the semester, then they could 
 make some changes.
 In early May, Luke took Shelley to a doctor's office for a routine
 appointment. After grabbing a bunch of cards from a Rolodex-type 
 dispenser that described various medications, he cut and pasted the cards into a
 flip-type notebook, creating a log of seven drugs he had taken and 
 more he wanted to try, complete with each medication's purpose, dosages, 
 dangers and how they affected him.
 At their Mother's Day lunch on May 9, Luke gave Sondra a lovely 
 vase filled with yellow roses and a sweet card. Happy and full of enthusiasm, Luke
 talked about changing his major to law. With Jason's tutoring, Luke 
 was making better grades.
 Sondra saw no sign of drug use. But finals started the next day, 
 and Luke was popping Adderall like M&Ms.

 David Stone got the phone call from a Dallas police detective at 
 about 2 p.m. on May 14. "You've lost your son," said the officer, calling 
 from the Collin County Medical Examiner's Office. "It's a drug overdose." 
 David had no idea what he was talking about.
 "It's not Luke," David insisted. "How do you know it's my son?" The 
 officer had found a drivers license in a Richardson apartment. The photo of 
 Sean Lukas Stone, age 20, matched the body found there.
 Still in disbelief, David called Sondra, who was in her car, and 
 asked her to pull over. When he told her, Sondra's reaction was the same: "It 
 can't be Luke."
 David picked up her and their younger son, and they drove to the 
 medical examiner's office in McKinney. Seeing Luke's body on a gurney 
 through the morgue window, Sondra screamed. She refused to believe Luke had 
 accidentally overdosed. Someone must have done it to him.
 Over the next few weeks, his parents heard more details from Luke's 
 friends and pieced together what had happened in their son's final days.
 On May 12, Corey, Jason, Roman, Anthony and Luke had lunch together 
 at The Abbey, their favorite pub. "We were talking about graduating and 
 what we  wanted to do," Corey says. "Luke was serious about [Shelley], as 
 happy as I'd seen him in months. A real happy, not an opiate happy."
 Luke pulled an all-nighter, studying with Jason for his calculus 
 and history exams. In addition to Adderall, Luke was using Xanax and Valium. His
 on-campus connection hadn't been able to get Percocet for weeks.
 "You could tell he'd been studying and was strung out a little," 
 Jason says.

 "At that point, you see shadow people." Recently Luke had been acting
 paranoid, saying that three undercover cops lived in his complex.
 The next day, Luke aced his calculus final. He made two trips to 
 Wal-Mart, the second with Shelley. His mother had given him about $180 on 
 Sunday. They bought some cleaning supplies, a small table and some DVDs. Late that
 afternoon Luke dropped Shelley at his apartment and apparently made 
 a run to see Porn.
 While Luke was gone, Shelley cleaned the apartment--it was the end 
 of the semester, and Luke's lease was almost up--then took a Seroquel, her
 prescribed medication for bipolar disorder, and zonked out.
 She was still asleep on the couch early that evening when 
 Christopher and several other guys dropped in. Luke had returned with lots of weed 
 and three fat gel caps of morphine, a drug he didn't much like because it 
 gives a "dirty" high, making him feel rotten after it wears off. But 
 morphine was the best his dealer could offer. He later told Shelley it took his 
 last $30.

No matter; he'd recoup it quickly by selling the pot.
 Wearing a black tank top and deep into the game City of Heroes, 
 Luke looked gaunt and hollow-eyed. "He had been on Xanax the entire week," 
 Christopher says. "He had gone from swallowing it to dissolving it in water or 
 snorting it. It hits your bloodstream all at once." Christopher bought some 
 weed but declined Luke's offer to share the morphine.
 At 10 p.m., Shelley woke from her nap. Luke emptied one gel cap of the
 morphine and separated it into two lines. He snorted one, and Shelley
 snorted the other. It hit Shelley hard, and she stumbled to bed.
 Shelley roused around 9 a.m. on May 14 and found Luke half on, half 
 off the bed. She pushed him back onto it and draped his arm around her. It 
 fell limp. Alarmed, Shelley pressed her ear on his chest. His heart was 
 beating,  faint and slow but not irregular. She went back to sleep.
 Later that morning--she doesn't remember the time, but it was 
 probably close to noon--Shelley got out of bed and started to tidy up. They were 
 going to UPS that day to look for work. A few minutes later, when she tried 
 to rouse Luke, he didn't respond. Shelley pulled the covers off the bed, joking
 around. She saw with a shock that the top of his body was deathly 
 pale and the bottom half looked bruised. Shelley flashed back to discovering 
 her mother's body; her blood had settled on the side where she'd 
 fallen, making her appear bruised. Shrieking, Shelley ran through the apartment 
 and found the three gel caps on the counter, empty.
 Hysterical, Shelley called Jason's cell phone. When he didn't answer, she
 dialed his roommate Christopher and screamed at him to wake Jason. 
 "He's not breathing!" she sobbed to Jason. "Get over here now. Luke's dead!"
 Jason raced to the apartment. One look was all it took. Weeping, 
 incoherent, Shelley insisted they had to get all the pot and paraphernalia out 
 of the apartment. She didn't want his parents or the police to know Luke was
 dealing drugs.

 "Luke's dead," Jason told her. "He's not going to jail." He realized,
 however, that Shelley's probation could be revoked for being around 
 illegal drugs. Jason gathered up the dope, bongs and scales--inadvertently 
 leaving behind a tube containing mushroom spores from an unsuccessful 
 attempt to grow 'shrooms--and carted the stuff out.
 Shelley called 911 about 12:30 p.m. Two Dallas police detectives 
 arrived in minutes with the paramedics.
 The news of Luke's death flashed through cell phones, leaving his 
 friends shocked and bewildered. With their limited knowledge of 
 pharmaceuticals, they debated the cause. Did the Adderall, an amphetamine that can 
 cause heart irregularities, interact with the morphine, which can suppress
 respiration? Finally aware how little they really knew, the tragedy 
 snapped them out of their own pill habits.

 For a while. As they awaited the autopsy results, Luke's parents lived in a kind of
 suspended disbelief that lasted seven weeks. "I couldn't fathom 
 that it was a drug overdose," Sondra says. "Luke was so smart." She was 
 convinced there had been foul play.
 Sondra agonized that Luke might have survived if Shelley had 
 immediately called 911. Shelley's grief and drug use had resulted in different 
 stories.   There's no doubt, however, that when Shelley woke up the second 
 time, Luke was beyond rescue.
 The autopsy results surprised everybody. Dr. William Rohr, the Collin County medical examiner, ruled that 
 Luke died of mixed-drug intoxication--the combined effects of morphine, 
 amphetamine  and at least three benzodiazepines. While the morphine alone wasn't 
 a lethal dose, the chemical cocktail in Luke's body shut down his respiration.
 His blood showed traces of diazepam (Valium), temazepam (a sleep 
 aid) and  oxazepam (anti-anxiety). Had he taken the benzos that day? The 
 night before? 

 Perhaps Luke had gotten to the point where he couldn't remember 
 what he took  when, and even his carefully organized drug log couldn't save him.
 Six of Luke's longtime friends served as pallbearers at the 
 funeral. After Tina told Sondra the name of one of Luke's suppliers, she was 
 shocked to find the dealer's signature in the funeral home guest book.
 Luke's drug-using friends were there, too, and some of their lives 
 have changed. In the last 12 months, Shelley has moved to a university 
 out of state. Using journal entries from their month together, Shelley 
 wrote a short one-woman play about falling in love with Luke and then 
 finding him dead and performed it for her theater class. She no longer takes any
 psychotropic medications. "When I stopped abusing my prescription 
 drugs," Shelley says, "I was able to stop using them [altogether]."
 Most of Luke's friends say they've stopped using illicit 
 medications. "None of us ever thought the pills were that dangerous," Christopher 
 says. "I didn't want to be part of it anymore."
 Corey says he's stopped smoking pot but still does Percocet. "I 
 think we're all more cautious," he says.
 Jason was scared, but also angry. "It seemed like such a waste," he 
 says. "It scared me, and it still does. I have a lot of friends who are 
 doing what  he was doing. They moderated it at first. But Luke understood. 
 Moderation  isn't possible."
 Anthony feels like he grew up a lot in the last year. "It was like 
 I left  'La La Land'--drugs are fun, they won't hurt us, we're so young--and
 realized death was real," he says. "I think about Luke every day."