Trumbull family’s opioid tragedy put them on a mission

TRUMBULL — Jake Beddoe thought he had all the time in the world.

As the 25-year-old showed his father Wally his new snake-inscribed Gucci wallet to match his “Jake the Snake” nickname, Jake had his argument ready. The designer label accessory, with its designer label price tag, was a lifetime purchase, something he could use every day for 20 years or more.

The rest of his life turned out to be just a few hours.

Jake died that night of accidental fentanyl ingestion after taking counterfeit alprazolam — an anti-anxiety medication sold under the brand name Xanax — to counter his fears about the effect the coronavirus pandemic was having on his career in the premium travel industry, according to his mother Niki.

He had gotten the illegal pills from a long-time acquaintance.

“He had come back from Boston to ride out the quarantine here, and he was working remotely, making calls from his office setup in the basement,” Niki said. “He just wanted to be able to get to sleep.”

Wally and Niki said they are now on a mission to spread the word about accidental drug overdoses like the one that killed their son.

According to the family, the autopsy report showed Jake had the equivalent of a single Xanax in his system. But the pill also contained a lethal dose of fentanyl, a narcotic used to treat extreme pain and that can cause respiratory distress and death when taken in large amounts or in combination with other substances.

On May 26, after working a long shift in his basement office, Jake was feeling exhausted, Niki said. He took a moment to relax, and promptly dozed off and missed dinner.

“It actually had been kind of nice, the whole family was quarantining at home, we were having family dinners together for the first time in years,” Niki said. “We were all together.”

That night, Niki heard Jake puttering around in the kitchen around midnight. He had been complaining about job- and COVID-related anxiety, she said. Jake, who had the following day off from work, said he was going to stream a movie and then try to get to sleep.

Jake watched the 1979 Australian movie “Mad Max,” then shut down his computer just after 2 a.m. At some point after that, she speculates, he took a pill from his stash of about 20 that he had purchased about a week earlier, broke off 1/4 and took it.

Niki found him the next morning.

“I was in the garage and all of a sudden it was mayhem,” Wally said.

Wally performed CPR until the first responders arrived a few minutes later. Paramedics tried to revive Jake for about 45 minutes, but it was already much too late.

Wally and Niki have learned that forged prescription medications are commonly available on college campuses. Their daughter Carly, 26, and son Kirk, 22, already knew.

“From what my kids told me, these pills are extremely common at colleges,” Niki said. “It’s Adderall to stay awake through the study sessions, and Xanax or Ativan (an anti-seizure medication also used to treat anxiety) to fall asleep.”

Government statistics back up Niki’s remarks.

According to the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, about 10 percent of college students reported misusing sedatives and nearly 16 percent had misused stimulants. Up to 28 percent of students reported sedatives or stimulants were either very easy or somewhat easy to get, and the majority got the drugs from friends. The data was collected through a 2018 survey of 19,536 students at 26 colleges.

Counterfeit prescription pills, especially ones laced with fentanyl, have become a growing problem in the United States, according to the DEA. During a three-month sampling last year, more than a quarter of the pills the DEA tested had lethal amounts of the synthetic opioid.

Fentanyl, which the DEA says is up to 100 times stronger than heroin, is primarily responsible for a 219 percent increase in synthetic opioid deaths between 2010 and 2015, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. By 2018, 128 Americans were dying from accidental opioid overdoses each day.

“We knew that there had been reports of deaths from people taking heroin that was laced with fentanyl, but we had never heard of it happening with Xanax,” Wally said. “Had we heard about it, maybe we could have had that conversation.”

The Beddoes now hope that by hearing their family’s story, other families can have the conversation they never got to with Jake.

“There are thousands of stories like this, but we just weren’t aware of them,” Wally said. “We had no idea fake Xanax was out there.”


said she was haunted by the idea that other local families could suffer the same fate.

“The guy Jake got the pills from had texted that he had 70,” she said. “Jake bought 20 from him. So there are still a lot more of them out there.”

If the Beddoes, who sent three children to college and have another, Amy, 16, in high school, didn’t know the dangers of counterfeit prescription drugs, they said they reasoned other parents likely didn’t either. For that reason, they have chosen to go public with their loss.

“We need to help people become aware of this danger,” Wally said. “We want to help Jake save lives.”