Shari Rudavsky, USA TODAY 7:23 p.m. EDT October 18, 2014 Chris Rhodes, shown in a family photo, died of an overdose of fentanyl, a legal narcotic used to treat pain.(Photo: Jay LaPrete, USA TODAY)
In retrospect, Dorothy Rhodes wishes she had said something, anything, to her son. She knew that young people in their West Virginia community were dying, one after one, overdosing on prescription painkillers. But neither she nor anyone else spoke of the problem. And then Rhodes received a phone call Dec. 17, 2008. Her only son, Chris, three weeks shy of his 20th birthday, had been rushed to the hospital. He soon died of an overdose of fentanyl, a legal narcotic used to treat pain. “In our community, we didn’t have a problem. That was the mentality,” she said. “No one talked about it.” Since 1990, the number of deaths from prescription drug overdose has tripled. On average, 46 people die from prescription drug overdoses each day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.