Despite the best efforts to exercise appropriate vigilance and provide guidance, my firstborn son yielded to the enticement of marijuana in his early teens. Just as William Cope Moyers, the son of veteran broadcaster Bill Moyers, describes in his autobiography "Broken," regarding his initial encounter with marijuana, so it was with my son.

Moyers says it was like a switch was turned on in his brain and he felt like this was the thing that had been missing from his life. But eventually, he came to realize it had stolen his soul and hijacked his brain.

Unlike Moyers, who at age 35 was finally able to enter a consistent trajectory of recovery, my son died in the fall of 2020 at age 38. So, for my family, a nearly 25-year battle with substance abuse had come to an end. Although there were many substances that my son tried and abused, there was only one that was a constant feature of his troubled life and that was marijuana.

Like most parents, my wife and I were so excited and thankful for the birth of our first child. He was healthy in body and mind. He loved being with family and with friends at church. Everything went gloriously well during his early childhood and elementary school years. He was very intelligent, an avid reader and a gifted musician.

But then as he transitioned from junior high to high school, all of his past life became like a distant fairy tale. There were dreadful school problems with almost daily phone calls regarding all manner of disruptive and even bizarre behavioral outbursts which became so disturbing that I came to believe he might be suffering from some underlying mental disorder.

Eventually, after extensive medical and psychiatric evaluations, it became apparent that substance abuse was the actual culprit. That began a long journey seeking recovery for my son. Our lives became as described in the song “My Elusive Dreams” as he went through multiple treatment programs here locally as well as in Montana, Louisiana, Arkansas and Tennessee.

But he couldn’t achieve a stable recovery. Despite all this turmoil, he was still able to graduate from high school and subsequently college. While in college, he managed to become a very popular and successful tutor. He married into a good family and entered grad school, but neither pursuit could survive the withering effects of substance abuse.

Over the course of my son’s descent into the black hole of addiction, there were numerous motor vehicle accidents and totaled vehicles, but thankfully - and quite amazingly - no one was ever injured. There were multiple overdose events, emergency room visits and hospital admissions for detoxification. He had legal troubles from frequently driving under the influence and continuing to do so even after losing his license. He spent time in jail, as he did not have the funds to make bail on more than one occasion.

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When he could not afford his own transportation, he got into trouble “borrowing” the vehicles of friends and even his employer on at least one occasion. Since he could not keep a job, he became homeless, roaming the streets and panhandling for money. He became like the man Jesus encountered in Mark 5 where it reads "This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him anymore not even with a chain. Night and day among the tombs and in the hills, he would cry out and cut himself with stones."

Eventually, he returned to the His Way recovery program in Huntsville that he had dropped out of a couple of times before. This time things were much different. My wife and I were astounded by the reports we received of his progress. This is a faith-based program and he became a Christian while there.

Over the ensuing months, he actually started teaching classes for the residents and helping the new arrivals get settled in the program. He also was instrumental in leading several of the men to become Christians. He was even elected by the men to be their campus president when that position needed to be filled. He was doing so well that there was interest by the leadership in his obtaining more training so that eventually he might come to work there.

He applied and was accepted back into grad school with that goal in mind. He also wanted to earn some extra money so he took up a side job.

Sadly, on the first day at that job away from the secure structure of the program, we got a call that he had been found unresponsive from an overdose episode. Despite all efforts, he could not be revived.

The tragedy of what happened to our son during his teenage years is unfortunately not unique. There are literally thousands of families all across the state of Alabama who have had similar experiences. I have spoken to many of these parents over the years as we struggled to save our children. Besides those who have died of an overdose, there have also been those who have died in motor vehicle accidents as well as by suicide. There are many more who, although they do not perish, in fact lose the life they could have had, being unable move forward in their personal development, remaining dependent on their parents or requiring some other social safety net of support because of their addiction.

The one predominant common denominator underlying all this loss of life is marijuana.

If you think that you and your family will not be affected by this tsunami of marijuana use coming our way, I encourage you to think again.

A native of Huntsville, Dr. Michael Brown is a retired gastroenterologist who obtained his medical degree from the University of Alabama School of Medicine. He is a fellow of the American College of Physicians as well as the American College of Gastroenterology. He has continued his work in research and also as a GI Hospitalist. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to