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Inside Snapchat’s Teen Opioid Crisis

Published by Daniel Brooks Moore on

Alex Neville was one of those boys who was always in costume, wearing his obsessions on his sleeve. At three, he went around dressed as a mummy, earnestly explaining the embalming process to children in Aliso Viejo, a town in Orange County, California. At seven, he was SoCal’s shortest Civil War junkie, dragging his father to local reenactments of the Battle of Gettysburg. It was at one of those events that he met his great hero: a tall, bearded schnook playing Abe Lincoln. “Alex was speechless when he shook ‘Abe’s’ hand,” says his father, Aaron Neville. “For him, it was like meeting Beyoncé!”

But for all his little-professor chi, Alex was a boy’s boy through and through. He ran with his wolf pack of free-range kids from kindergarten on. They boogie-boarded riptides and stunt-jumped skate bowls, anything for a G-pass from gravity. It was hard being one of the brightest kids in class, though, when his brain kept overheating. “We knew two things about him early on,” says his mom, Amy Neville, a heart-faced woman with the watchful zen of a longtime yoga instructor. “One, he was borderline genius — at least. Two, he had ADD. Or something.”

Alex couldn’t sit still or manage his moods; the smallest things triggered eruptions. “As we found out from his therapist, he had a ‘ring of fire’ brain; it never switched off,” says Amy. Alex lived at the whims of his central nervous system, and the first thing that tamed it was weed. “He smoked in seventh grade. For him, it was like, ‘Where have you been?!'”

How does Amy know this? Because Alex told her everything that passed between his ears. He gave his mom the blow-by-blow on his middle school romances. When he broke his word and smoked weed again, he confessed that, too. And when weed wasn’t enough, and he bought his first pills online, then got hooked on what he thought was Oxycontin, he went to his terrified parents and told all: A dealer I met on Snapchat. He taught me to use PayPal. I’ve been using for the last seven days.

Amy Neville spent that night and the next day, too, trying to book her son a rehab bed. But this was 2020, three months into the pandemic; no one was going anywhere overnight. The following morning, he had a dentist’s appointment. Neville opened his door and found him sprawled on his beanbag, his left hand tucked in his waistband. There was vomit on his shirt, and his lips were blue. Alex Neville — age 14, a freshly minted eighth-grade graduate — had been dead for at least six hours.

(Source: RollingStone)


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