The Winston family had recently celebrated the high school graduation of their son, Ronnie. (The names have been changed to respect the privacy of the family during these challenging times.) Despite living in the coronavirus era, life seemed otherwise on course for the Winstons. All of that change in the blink of an eye, with life never going to be the same for the Winston family and their friends.

At Eco Bear, we are called upon to come to peoples’ homes in the aftermath of tragedies of different types. These include situations in which a family member dies a traumatic death, including suicides and accidents. Our professional work brings us into contact with situations like this one involving the Winston family in California. 

From time to time, we share our experiences in working with families, businesses, and others in dealing with life-altering situations. We’ve found that by sharing certain narratives allows others to realize they are not alone when challenging and even tragic events occur in their lives. There is something important to be said when people in a difficult or even seemingly overwhelming situation are not alone.   

Ronnie Returns Home After “Hanging Out” With Questionable Peers

Ronnie arrived at the family home where he lived with his parents and his younger siblings after spending time with a group of his “friends.” His parents report that in more recent weeks Ronnie had been “hanging out” with a less than desirable group of “peers.” These evidently were young people who used mind-altering substances. On the day of the incident at the family home which is the subject of this discussion, Ronnie had “been out” with these people. 

Ronnie returned home clearly under the influence of some type of mind-altering substance. He fairly could be described to be out of control upon his return home. The circumstances made it possible for Ronnie’s parents to rule out their son being drunk at the time. His behavior made it clear he was under the influence of some type of drug, although the parents were unable to identify the substance. 

Parents Try to “Sober Up” Their Son

The parents thought their son would be able to “sober up” to some degree if he took a shower. Ronnie did get into the shower. While he was in the bathroom, perhaps even in the shower at the time, Ronnie smashed glass in the room. In doing so, he severely cut himself. 

Smashed Glass and Catastrophic, Heartbreaking Consequences

The bathroom itself was littered with a significant amount of broken glass and a great deal of blood. Ronnie did not remain in the bathroom after breaking glass and grievously injuring himself. 

Ronnie went through different rooms in the home, leaving blood splatters on the walls, floors, and even ceilings. Furniture was blood splattered. Toys used by Ronnie’s younger siblings was blood-covered. Even the inside of the refrigerator was stained with Ronnie’s blood.

Ronnie’s parents called 911 and did whatever they could to appropriately control and provide first aid to their son. Despite his deep cuts, they struggled to get their son to calm down. 

As paramedics were on the way to the family home to come to Ronnie’s aid, the young man finally collapsed. His mother cradled Ronnie in her arms. Before emergency medical personnel were able to make it to the family home, Ronnie died in his mother’s arms.

Types of Mind-Altering Substances That Might Cause Uncontrolled, Dangerous Behavior

In the type of situation that we discuss here, the country coroner will be called to the scene. The coroner will perform a postmortem examination, including drug testing and an autopsy. We don’t know precisely what mind-altering substance (or substances) were involved in Ronnie’s tragic, untimely death. What we do know is that there are some mind-altering substances that can result in the type of behavior that culminated in Ronnie’s death. 

Meth is on the list of mind-altering substances that can result in the type of behavior exhibited by Ronnie after he returned him. This type of behavior is more likely after a person uses meth for an extended period of time in “one sitting” or has developed an addiction to this drug and uses it consistently or regularly. 

Young people in Ronnie’s age cohort also misuse prescription medications that they obtain through illicit channels with alarming regularity. There are seven such drugs that are misused and do result in the kind of behavior exhibited by Ronnie:

  • Desvenlafaxine (Pristiq)
  • Venlafaxine (Effexor)
  • Fluvoxamine (Luvox)
  • Triazolam (Halcion)
  • Atomoxetine (Strattera)
  • Paroxetine (Paxil)
  • Fluoxetine (Prozac)

In addition, another possible mind-altering substance that may have been the underlying cause of Ronnie’s deadly behavior is something commonly known as flakka or bath salts. Substance abuse and addiction treatment specialists describe flakka in this way:

“Users usually snort or smoke the crystals, often in an e-cigarette, or dissolve the crystals in water and inject the solution in order to experience its effects. At low doses (about a tenth of a gram), Flakka is a strong stimulant, but at high doses, the drug can cause strange and violent behavior. Unfortunately, users often inadvertently take more than the tiny amount that constitutes a low dose of the drug and end up experiencing a variety of negative consequences.” These include:

  • Agitation
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Elevated body temperature
  • Extreme anxiety and paranoia
  • Hallucinations
  • Psychosis
  • Violent behavior
  • Self-harm

Aftermath of Ronnie’s Death

Ronnie’s family rented the home in which they lived. Their landlord, the owner of the property, asked us to come to the residence to provide traumatic accident cleanup services. 

The home would have been a pleasant residence if not for the blood found throughout. Before Ronnie returned home, a pan of fresh muffins was set out on the counter. In other words, this had been a home where life appeared to be “typical.” 

After Ronnie died, his mobile phone was found in a pool of blood in the bathroom. The phone was filled with numerous texts from Ronnie’s friends. These friends’ messages were focused on trying to find out if Ronnie was “O.K.” 

Ronnie was never able to answer these messages. His young life tragically ended before he was able to respond.