SOMERS, N.Y. – This spring, within less than two weeks of each other, Erik Christiansen, 28, of Somers and Justin Salomone, 23, of Mahopac died of overdoses.
Both young men were heroin addicts who had tried desperately to recover. Both were taking heavy doses of prescription painkillers. The two families believe that the abundance of prescription drugs underlies their causes of death.
Together the families have organized a community action forum to address a problem that Justin Salomone's mother, Susan Salomone, calls "a silent epidemic."
"People are embarrassed to talk about it," she said, "but a quarter of our population is touched by addiction. That is 25 percent, and nobody is talking about it."
Describing his son’s last days, Lou Christiansen said, “My son got out of rehab on Monday and on Tuesday he went to a local doctor, who prescribed oxycodone, as well as 10 fentanyl patches.”
The Mayo Clinic describes oxycodone as a narcotic analgesic which acts upon the central nervous system to relieve moderate to severe pain. Fentanyl patches are identified as narcotic analgesics used to treat chronic pain.
“On Thursday Erik went back to work,” his father continued. “He saw his AA counselor on Thursday night. I spoke to him on Friday night. He said he was having car trouble.
“On Saturday morning about 6 a.m., a NYC police captain and lieutenant pulled up to the house. I knew the minute I saw them.”
“We did all we could for him,” said the police officer, speaking of one of his own — Erik Christiansen was a New York City detective.
Although Lou Christiansen is still awaiting the final toxicology report, he believes that prescription drugs must have been involved in his son's death.
“At one point, that doctor prescribed 240 oxycodones a month. I asked my family doctor to consult with Erik’s doctor, but the guy refused to give him any records,” Lou Christiansen said.
The first community action forum, titled “Drug Crisis in Our Back Yard,” will be held at the Mahopac Library from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday. Speakers include Chris Rooney, an addiction sponsor; Karina Christiansen, Erik's 26-year-old sister and a health and public policy specialist; Mahopac pharmacist Nagi Wissa; and Tricy Cushner, president of Yorktown’s Alliance for Safe Kids.
For more information call Lou Christiansen 914-879-4042 or Susan Salomone 914-582-8384 or visit Songs for Our Children.