Joey Martin’s Story

Everyone loved Joey! He really did love life, and lived it to the fullest. He was very outgoing, loved fishing, baseball, basketball, and skateboarding. He loved being around friends, family, and his dog, and he loved all outdoor activities.

Joey was a go-getter! He had no fear and always wanted to do well. Losing was not easy for him. We knew he would do well in life because of this drive to succeed.

Joey’s dad and I just wanted to see him follow his dream. That dream was to become a physical therapist or get into sports medicine. But that was before drugs.

His drug use started with marijuana at age 13 or 14. Joey’s dad and I saw an email on his cell phone about obtaining marijuana from a friend. We immediately took action and did what any parent would do. We talked to him about the dangers and disciplined him accordingly. We called the friend’s parents as well.

It wasn’t until Joey got into a horrible automobile accident at age 17 that he became addicted to prescription drugs. Knowing the potential for addiction in anyone so young, I told doctors, “No narcotic drugs.” I wanted to fix the problem, not mask it. However, when Joey turned 18 years old, he managed to find doctors who would prescribe him anything. His earlier use of marijuana at the young age of 13 or 14, combined with the trauma of the car accident, led him into a downward spiral of drug abuse.

Joey went from smoking marijuana to becoming addicted to prescription drugs. As a result of his addiction, my husband and I continually sought help for him. In four years, Joey received treatment at three rehab centers and four sober homes. His life was turned upside down, and no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t stop using drugs.

On January 11, 2013, we received a horrible phone call no parent ever wants to get. Joey had died of a prescription drug overdose. He died while residing in a highly recommended home that we thought would be safe, sober, and structured. Thankfully, Joey had health insurance to cover the cost of his treatment, though it didn’t cover the cost of a sober home. Unfortunately, many parents today don’t have even this much of an option.

My best advice for preventing teenage drug use is awareness and education. Talk to your kids, and if you have prescriptions in your medicine cabinet, lock them up! And we should be requiring random drug screening in schools to protect kids from early use.

The stigma of addiction, overdose, or co-occurring mental illness affects us all today. Friends, family members, legislators – everyone is reluctant to speak about this very real, very big epidemic. We are losing a generation of kids.

Moving on after the loss of a child is very hard. I was fortunate to have the support of other people who had also lost their children to drug use and overdose. I’ve been an advocate for years and have attended many events to educate and rally. Since Joey’s death, I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to work on two bills, in California and Arizona (CA AB 2491, AZ HB 2107).

I continue to work and advocate for improvements in the addiction recovery industry and in services to aid in the prevention of youth drug use. There are serious shortfalls in services at this time, while marijuana advocates are normalizing and commercializing and glamorizing drug use. This is a recipe for more addictions and deaths, a recipe for disaster!

by Jill Martin, Yucca Valley, California