Ginger Katz founded the Courage to Speak Foundation after the
death of her son, Ian.

The Courage the Speak

Ginger Katz is on a quest to understand why young people turn to addiction. After she told her story at Xavier last week and spoke about the impact drugs and alcohol had on her son Ian, before his death in 1996, she the gathered sophomores, "what makes young people turn to drugs?"

Ian Eaccarino.

Several suggested peer pressure. One answered boredom. One offered that family problems such as a divorce could lead to emotional pain. Ms. Katz acknowledged that all of these factors could have led to her son experimenting with drugs and to his eventual death as a result of heroin overdose.

Ian James Eaccarino was a promising high school athlete who, in some ways, had a double life. He excelled on the lacrosse field and had lots friends. In middle school, Ian experimented with substances. He was once arrested after a police officer found marijuana in a car he had been riding in; he was later released. Ms. Katz had been exposed to drug awareness lessons and would later recognize mood swings and unpredictable behavior in her son.

During high school, when she confronted him and asked for a urine sample to perform a drug test, he hesitated. The next day, thanks to a friend, he produced a clean urine sample, which he handed her, but she was suspicious and asked that he contribute another sample, which tested positive. He entered a three month counseling program, but never was able to reach the emotional problems at the root his behavior. Instead, Ian grew more skilled at hiding his drug use.

By sophomore year of college, Ian was using heroin and became addicted. After several attempts at rehabilitation, including counseling and medication, Ian relapsed on heroin and died in his sleep on Sept. 10, 1996, at age 20.

Ms. Katz presented the above story in vivid detail, describing her and her husband's repeated attempts at intervention and reflecting on moments where, in hindsight, she and others may have enabled her son's drug habit. After Ian's death, many of his friends came forward and shared with her illuminating aspects of Ian's life and his struggles.

"This is a damaging business and they are targeting youth. Your friends can bring you up, or they can bring you down," Ms. Katz said to Xavier sophomores. She pleaded with them to avoid self-destructive choices when they encounter problems in life. "Find three to five adults in your life that you can talk to," she said."

Ginger Katz has given her presentation to over 1000 groups since the death of her son in 1996. She has developed curriculum for all levels of young people, including elementary, middle and high school students. For more information on The Courage to Speak, click here.

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