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ONLY ON KOLD: Prescription for Danger

Christopher Hesse died at age 16 from a prescription drug overdose Christopher Hesse died at age 16 from a prescription drug overdose
TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

It's a problem that's hard to stop because prescription drugs and over-the-counter medicine are so readily available.

Arizona is  number 6 in the nation on the list of people dying from drug overdoses.

Just last year in Arizona, 585 million pills were given out. That's enough to medicate every adult Arizonan around the clock for two weeks.

Nationally, sales of prescription painkillers, a type of pill that's commonly abused, have quadrupled since 1999.

Efforts are underway to curb the problem, which the CDC calls an epidemic. But for one family, despite all efforts, help didn't come soon enough.

Like others his age, Christopher Hesse played sports and was outgoing, but reserved.

"Christopher was being educated on everything, you know with the counseling and the educational classes he was getting."

Growing up, he was a Boy Scout.

Christopher's mom, Michele Hesse, says she and her son were close.

But no matter how close, there are some things a parent can't prevent.

For Christopher, it started with marijuana and alcohol - then pills.

"We were trying to keep an eye on everything and get an eye on what was going on, the usual with kids."

Michele moved her son from school to school, hoping to remove what she saw as part of the problem: the availability of drugs.

"The availability of the drugs is a big thing," Dean Wright said.

Dean Wright, the director of Arizona's Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, says the majority of prescription drugs and over the counter medicine that people use to get high comes from medicine cabinets at home.

"We have so much drug out there that it's easy to get a hold of. They want to get high."

Christopher didn't get an allowance. His mom knows of at least one time when he sold his PSP, a gaming device worth about $200, to get pills.

"In Christopher's case, the young man got it at home from his parents."

On a hot summer night two years ago, Michele picked up her son from his drug testing and stopped for frozen yogurt before heading home.

"I thought that despite everything, that he was doing ok, but obviously not to resort to such an extreme pill to get high on."

Aug. 20, 2011: Facebook messages between Christopher and a friend:

"Man please tell me you're alive. Please tell me all this stuff is rumors. This world needs you dude," his friend wrote.

Christopher Hesse would never respond to that message.

He died that night at just 16 years old. Michele found her son in his bedroom that morning.

"I see it every day. Yeah, that picture is in my mind 24/7. It doesn't matter how peaceful he was. It's right here, always."

Medical examiners say it was a morphine drug overdose that ended Christopher's life and robbed his family of a son and brother.

Michele believes her son was an addict, but didn't know he was so close to death.

"That one is Christopher, yeah," she said as she pointed out her son's ashes.

And forever in his family's hearts, the question of "Why?" will never go away.

"I wish I knew for sure. I can only guess and have ideas."

Ideas and a story Michele hopes will be a message after a young life cut short by a life of pills.

Here are the red flags to look out for:    

- if you notice sudden change in friends, eating habits, sleeping patterns

- secrecy about actions or possessions

- stealing money or an unexplained need for money

- look for medicine containers or drug paraphernalia in your teen's room

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