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No one is invincible…Derek’s story

An unknown drug sensitivity leads to a tragic accident after just one pill

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The first time that I heard about the non-medical use of prescription pills was in 2009.

It terrified me to know that this was what was readily available on the street and that kids were experimenting with them. My son Derek was 19 years old at the time and I didn’t hesitate to inform him of my feelings about these pills and the dangers that came with them. He gave me one of his award winning smiles and told me not to worry.

 Two years later, I found Derek in his bed. He went from healthy, vibrant and alive to bruised, cold and lifeless. My beautiful son was gone.

On a cold Winnipeg night in 2011, my son dropped his guard and caved to what I believe was peer pressure. He had told me earlier that day that he was tired and was feeling worn down. After a long and busy night at work he met with a person that he didn’t regularly associate with. For some reason he agreed and then ingested a prescription pill. This was out of the ordinary and it was not part of his lifestyle. He did not have addiction issues nor was I ever worried about his choices or decisions. When I spoke to the coroner after he died I was confused. There was no alcohol or any other narcotics in his system. In fact, even the amount of the prescription pill that was found in his body was minimal. The pill that he had taken was hydromorphone which I have been told is a very strong pain killer. The coroner referred to his death as “tragic” and she went on to explain that his death was not an overdose. Derek’s body could not handle even a small amount of this narcotic. He was drug sensitive which means that even though he had ingested a minimal amount, his body reacted negatively to it. This drug was far more powerful in his system than the same amount might be in someone else’s. This increased sensitivity caused a full body reaction causing him to go into respiratory distress.

 I think that it is important to understand the difference between a drug sensitivity and an overdose.

With drug sensitivity one pill can be lethal. It reminds us that an overdose is not the only danger that is associated with prescription pills. Any type of medication may result in death if you are drug sensitive. You won’t know this until you ingest it. Whether you have been prescribed any type of medication or if you feel the need to experiment with something that has not been prescribed for you there are always risks. That is why every patient signs a release form when they are having procedures done in a hospital. It is because nobody knows exactly how your body will respond. Every person is unique and there are always different degrees of reactions/side effects that may accompany them. It is like playing Russian Roulette.

This has been a nightmare for myself and those who loved Derek. He was an athlete and a honour role student. He was well respected, responsible and had a lot of friends. On January 30, 2011 he made a decision that cost him his life. A decision that has affected his family forever.

A parent should never have to bury a child. Whether it is considered an overdose or if your body is overly sensitive to any type of medication, death can still be the end result.

With Derek’s death comes a message and a warning to others.  Prescription pills are for pain relief….not pleasure or recreational use.

If you think that you are immune then I am here to remind you to stop and think again. Nobody is invincible. Not even my smart, responsible and well loved son. All I have now are my memories of him.

Love and miss you everyday, Derek. 


Written by Derek’s mother, Donna. If you’d like to contact Donna about her story, or if you have a testimonial to share, please contact us at:

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