Wes was a great friend, a better brother, and the best son! He will always be remembered for his playful, kind nature.

Growing up in a small coastal town in NC, Wes was a “big fish in a small pond”; a honor student, all-star athlete and county champion. His senior year of high school he earned the VIP Athlete award and was honored with the opportunity to speak at his graduation. He immediately enrolled in college following high school, where he quickly realized he was now a “small fish in a big pond”. This realization, and Wes’ desire to “belong”, drove him to rushing for a fraternity that eventually led him to making poor decisions and smoking marijuana. Ending his first semester, Wes, having always been an A student, was failing all his college courses. We made a decision not to pay for a second semester at the college and, instead, bring Wes home to reassess.

This was a very difficult time for Wes, as he was a people pleaser, and he became depressed. It was not until he started working for local friends in their restaurant and reconnecting with peers, eventually dating a sweet young lady, that he started to be his playful, joyful self. It was not long, however, before we noticed a change in Wes’ personality and soon discovered he was again smoking marijuana. Having 3 other children in the home, it was made clear to Wes that he could not stay in our home if he chose to smoke marijuana. He made a decision to move out. Our relationship was cordial, but distant for nearly a year.

Eventually, Wes realized he was not making the best choices and asked to return home, agreeing to stop smoking marijuana. We gladly welcomed him home with open arms. However, about a month later, he openly discussed that he was suffering from anxiety and insomnia. He shared that these were the reasons he had previously smoked marijuana, as it eased those feelings. Thinking i was doing the right thing, I insisted he see a doctor to seek a diagnosis and possibly discuss medications that could ease those feelings (in a legal manner). In a short 5 minute assessment, he was diagnosed with anxiety and prescribed multiple medications. After several weeks of taking the medications, he shared that the medications made him feel loopy and tried to explain that marijuana did not have that effect. We could not agree and he again made the decision to move out of our family home.

6 months later, Wes’ girlfriend found him unresponsive on the morning of April 7, 2016. She called 911 as a roommate performed CPR. The EMT arrived and announced him dead on arrival and did not attempt to continue CPR. We were called by another roommate and arrived to find emergency vehicles and police, who refused to allow us to see our son. The EMT had suggested he may have aspirated in his sleep. His girlfriend shared that he had had difficulty sleeping the night before, after receiving news that his friend had died from a drug overdose, and he went to see friends for what he told her was percocet, to help him sleep. She said he snorted it, went to sleep and never woke up. Several months later, the autopsy clarified that he had died from fentanyl poisoning and it was reported as a drug overdose. To date, one of those “friends” pled guilty to second degree murder. The other awaits trial.

After Wes’ death, friends shared that Wes had been “experimenting” with his prescribed medication and other drugs. His friends described him as a “recreational user” and not an “addict”. But the reality is, there is no safe “recreational’ or “experimentation” with drugs. Anyone is susceptible to an overdose. And providing those drugs to others, even a “friend”, makes anyone subject to criminal charges. A beautiful life was lost over a very poor decision. And many lives have changed. The collateral damage is far spread.

*I would be remiss not to share, Wes’ autopsy report also revealed that he had a thyroid condition, one that could have explained the symptoms he was suffering. Imagine if the doctor had discovered that and treated that, rather than just write a prescription!

Submitted by Vanessa Sapp, Jason’s mother