Tragically, Dr. Laura Berman, the sex therapist who came to fame on Oprah’s afternoon talk show and later became a popular figure on the OWN network, today confirmed that her 16-year-old son Samuel has died of a drug overdose from laced pills he got via Snapchat.. The loss of a child is one of the worst pains imaginable, and our hearts go out to Dr. Berman and her family.
In sharing her loss, Berman also warned parents to be aware of drug dealers who operate on social media platforms, and to be extra vigilant when monitoring their children’s activity on platforms like Snapchat, Twitter, and Instagram.
In an Instagram post, Dr. Berman shared that “a drug dealer connected with [Samuel] on Snapchat and gave him fentanyl laced Xanax and he overdosed in his room. They do this because it hooks people even more and is good for business, but it causes overdose and the kids don’t know what they are taking. My heart is completely shattered and I am not sure how to keep breathing. I post this now only so that not one more kid dies.”
Dr. Berman’s Instagram post said that her son’s death was a case of “experimentation gone bad,” as he was a straight-A student who was getting ready for college.
“We watched him so closely,” she wrote. “He got the drugs delivered to the house. Please watch your kids and WATCH SNAPCHAT especially. That’s how they get them.”
According to Get Smart About Drugs, a DEA resource for parents, educators, and caregivers, social media can play a huge role in teen drug use. “Through different hashtags (#s) they can be exposed to offers from dealers to buy drugs through various social sites,” the organization says on its website. Strings of emojis are used as code for specific drugs to keep parents (and authorities) in the dark.
Drug use in teens can be difficult to identify because mood swings and erratic behavior can be normal due to hormonal and chemical changes at this stage of life. Plus, the bizarre nature of this last year of pandemic life and quarantine isolation has kids and adults alike behaving in unusual ways. Warning signs that your teen is experimenting with drugs, like lack of motivation, loss of concern for physical appearance, and poor concentration, are unlikely to stand out as much these days. Even more challenging is trying to guess if your teen is thinking about trying drugs for the first time, like in Dr. Berman’s case.
The best way to protect your kids is to make sure they understand the very real danger of overdose. And while you want to keep the lines of communication open, you may also want to check their Internet search history and monitor their delivered packages if you suspect drug use. And talk to your kids about drugs and alcohol as early as age 6, long before they’re curious or pressured to try alcohol or drugs themselves.
In a separate statement to E! News, Berman explained that her son, who was also known as Sammy, was “a beautiful soul who left us way too soon.”
“Our hearts are broken for ourselves and for all the other children that are suffering during this pandemic,” her statement read. “We call on Snapchat and Twitter to help the Santa Monica Police with their investigation, which according to the police is something the big technology companies regularly refuse to do. And we encourage every parent to manage their children’s social media as closely as possible.”
We hope Snapchat and Twitter step up in this investigation, as well as start trying harder to kick drug dealers off their platforms when they are discovered. Parents, hold your teens a little closer tonight, and start those conversations about drugs and alcohol in honor of Sammy.