Tonight we are gathering at DC Prime, a restaurant in Ashburn, Virginia, on what would have been the 21st birthday of Tyler Joe Young. Having lost his life to a tragic fentanyl overdose at 19, Tyler could be one of the many smiling faces in People Magazine’s recent Special Report “Deadly Drugs in the US: Faces of the Fentanyl Epidemic”. Except there’s simply not enough room on its pages for so many we now celebrate in absentia.
On April 6, 2022, the DEA issued a letter expanding its 2021 public safety alert, disclosing that fentanyl continues to be seized at record rates. Its 2021 haul included “15,000 pounds of fentanyl […] which is enough to kill every American”. Pause and read that sentence again. “Enough to kill every American.”
Overdoses can result from an amount the size of the head of a pin, and traffickers leverage its highly addictive qualities by incorporating it into everything from fake prescription pills to the spectrum of street drugs. Tyler simply took a pill that looked like Xanax and went to sleep in his bed at home. He never woke up.
My in-person time with Tyler was brief, but I felt I knew him far better. I experienced him over the years through loving stories from his mother, my colleague and friend. He was brilliant, creative, funny, and kind. And in the midst of living his extraordinary life, he sometimes battled addiction in an effort to quiet his extremely active mind.
If you have enjoyed reading my blog, please click the link below to learn more about Tyler and to make a donation to a memorial fund at the Inova Keller Center in honor of Tyler. The fund supports mental health and substance use disorder treatment programs for children and adolescents.
If you’d like to see Tyler in action, check out his tongue-in-cheek You Tube video where he spoofs a social influencer reviewing a Waterpik. Or his “Food Review” of Skittles, which clearly takes place in his bathroom, as he delivers the dead-pan line, “I’m in my kitchen now”.
Tyler’s departure was unplanned, and he left us wanting more of him. Let’s work toward reducing the number of others that do the same.