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Student mourns drug-related death of loved one

Two+pharmaceuticals%2C+such+as+would+be+ordered+from+the+%22dark+web.%22
Two pharmaceuticals, such as would be ordered from the

Two pharmaceuticals, such as would be ordered from the "dark web."

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Two pharmaceuticals, such as would be ordered from the "dark web."

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Although her friends don’t know it, Senior Lauren Shank is mourning a death. One year ago this November, Jake Fielder, her longtime boyfriend, accidentally took a lethal combination of prescription painkillers he had ordered on the internet for recreational use. Shank has kept his passing a secret from everyone but her family, fearing the judgement and stigmatization she might cause Fielder, who used drugs on a regular basis.

“People stereotype drug users quite a bit,” Shank said. “They’re either criminals or deadbeats who spend all day on the sofa, or they’re mentally ill. I love my friends at school, love them to death, but even they have those biases. They would have dismissed [Jake] before they got to know him. So I never told them about [Jake] and probably never will.”

Shank and Fielder often took prescription drugs together, either at parties or, when one of their houses was vacant of family, just the two of them. Thanks to websites hosted on the “dark web,” a section of the internet only available to users with specialized software, Fielder could order pharmaceuticals not prescribed by a doctor and have them delivered to his house via the U.S. Postal Service.

Initially experimenting with Xanax and Oxycontin, which were cheap and easy to obtain, they soon advanced to harder drugs. An opioid painkiller called Demerol piqued their interest in particular; used medically to alleviate extreme pain, the drug is coveted in recreational settings for the onrush of relaxation and euphoria it produces.

“We used to pop a Demerol, put on some music and just lie there next to each other,” Shank said. “He had this record player – I think it was his dad’s – that must have been 40 years old, maybe older, I don’t know. There was this one jazz record that had gotten stuck inside of it. So, we kind of had no choice but to listen to jazz while we got high. It’s funny, the things you remember.”

Fielder died of respiratory depression – that is, slow, ineffective breathing – one evening last November, alone in his bedroom. He suffered from major depressive disorder and had attempted suicide before his involvement with Shank, but Shank rejects the notion that his death was intentional. The absence of a suicide note corroborates, or at least lends credibility to, the incident being an accidental overdose.

“The future was very real to us. [Jake] constantly talked about the places he wanted to take me once we had the time and gas money to do it. It’s not like I don’t wonder whether he killed himself, because I do, I wonder that every… day, going over it in my head again and again and again and again. But he was happy. And so was I. I have to remind myself of that.”

This month, Shank visited Fielder’s grave for the first time since his funeral. She brought a basket of flowers with her, real flowers, not the plastic replicas sometimes found in graveyards.

“The people that come with fake bouquets kill me,” Shank said. “How are you going to accept death if you’re bringing something that will never die? I like to think my flowers will end up in the same place he’s gone to.”

The individual interviewed for this article requested to remain anonymous. Pseudonyms have been used where appropriate.

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Student mourns drug-related death of loved one