This speech was originally given at a Voices of Victims event.

Hi. My name is Kira Russo. I’m here in honor of my younger son, Andy Bauer, who in September 2018 ended his own life. Andy was an amazing young man. Like many others describe their loved ones, he was very intelligent and loving. He got his first job when he was 15, and he loved to take his family and friends out for dinner or coffee. He bought his first car, a bright orange Ford Mustang when he was 16. Andy was really generous with his time, too. He was always willing to help people with car or house projects. One of the best parts about Andy was his sense of humor. I couldn’t understand at that time how my son—a young man with everything going for him could take his own life.

Prior to 2018, Andy used some of the heavier drugs for about a half a year, and it became clear to him that those drugs were harming him. One of those drugs is known for depleting serotonin in the brain. This can cause depression. So Andy switched gears. Pot—just pot—became his drug of choice. He used it in the hopes that it would relieve his anxiety and depression. Most addicts in recovery know that our drugs of choice often turn on us. They often create the symptoms we hope they will relieve. He needed more to achieve the same effect. In his addiction, he fell away from the man he was Created to Be. He became dishonest, restless, irritable, and discontented. In other words, the drug stopped working.

After Andy died, his brother and I found out that he had been dabbing and making budder—narcotic-strength cannabis products. In fact, we found out that his whole life revolved around marijuana. Like other addicts, when he put the first substance in his body, he had no more choices after that. The drug would dictate his life. His brother and I found out after he passed that he had been arrested for possession of paraphernalia and had experienced hallucinations. He had distanced himself from us because we made our concerns about his drug use clear to him.

After Andy’s suicide, a woman asked me if he used marijuana. Even though I was a bit perplexed, I confirmed that he did. She suggested I speak to Sally Schindel, who shared with me her experience about her son—also Andy. At that point, I hadn’t heard the terms dabbing, wax, budder, or shatter. I now know that there is a strong relationship between these narcotic-strength cannabis products and the decline in mental health in adolescents. After I talked with Sally, it all made sense. Andy couldn’t tell the true from the false. In that state, he made the ultimate sacrifice.

There are victims of marijuana. We share our stories to shed light about the increasing number of tragedies associated with narcotic-strength cannabis products. It’s not just pot anymore.

Kira Russo