Side effects: Family, friends discuss the loss of a loved one to drug addiction

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A mother hopes somebody learns from her daughter's struggle with drug addiction

Family, friends explain what it's like to lose a loved one to an overdose

Credit: Dariana Casado
Dariana Casado, pictures right in both photos, is pictured with her friend on their last day of high school in 2003 in the left photo and at a concert a few years later in the photo on the right.

(WKBN) – A person can be struggling with drug addiction and others might not even realize it, and addiction can happen unintentionally. 

“I don’t know what kind of impression people have of drug addicts,” Bonnie Sparks said. “They’re normal, every-day people.” 

Sparks lost her daughter, who lived in Trumbull County, to an overdose in late August and said she was a beautiful and smart person. She graduated from high school at 16-years-old and had five children. 

“What started her addiction was when she had her first child. She had an epidural that didn’t go very well, and they gave her pain medication. Then, when she had her second child, she had an epidural that went even worse, so they gave her even more pain medication,” Sparks said. 

Her daughter continued taking the pain medication to help ease her back pain so that she could work. 

“She was addicted for the last 10 years. Of course, the pain medication wasn’t strong enough after a while, and then she went to heroin, which I don’t think that was strong enough, and then she went to fentanyl,” Sparks said. 

Sparks also said that her daughter tried to help herself by going to rehab but kept relapsing. 

A high school friend of Sparks’ daughter, Dariana Casado, heard about what happened and that Sparks was now looking after her five grandchildren, and decided to help by setting up an online fundraiser.

“I decided that I wanted to do anything that I could to help her and her children so I decided to collect funds and donations,” said Casado. 

While the children’s other grandmother helps watch after them, Sparks admits that financially, it’s difficult because she is retired.  

“It’s very hard money-wise,” Sparks said. “It’s just hard. It’s a hard time right now for us, and the GoFundMe thing was helping tremendously. I did get to buy them some clothes for school and get their winter coats and stuff like that, and the extra things that we needed.” 

Despite growing apart after high school, Casado still felt connected to her friend and her family. 

“I want to honor my friend,” said Casado. 

It’s been difficult emotionally, too, especially as the holiday season approaches. Sparks said her daughter loved the holidays. One of her favorite activities was participating in Elf on a Shelf, and watching her children find him in a different spot each day. 

“She loved Christmas, she loved doing stuff for her kids and doing stuff with her kids at Christmas,” Sparks said. 

But most importantly, she was a mother, and did a good job at being that for her children, Sparks said.

“She was a good mother, a very good mother,” Sparks said. “Just something she got ahold of that she couldn’t get rid of.” 

In her opinion, rehab and using pain medications for shorter amounts of time is necessary to help prevent addiction. 

“I think pain medications should be given in moderation. I mean, if it takes you three months to get over your pain medication, then they should take it away in three months,” Sparks said. 

There are also professionals out there that help those struggling and their families and friends. Moe Jiles, who was also friends with Sparks’ daughter, works for Life Enhancement Services, which offers services to those with mental and behavioral issues, as well as those battling drug and alcohol addiction. 

They opened a new location this month in Warren on Niles Road.  

“One of the reasons why we decided to choose that area because we know that there is an issue, and there is a problem, and there are services that we provide that that community can greatly benefit from,” Jiles said. 

All three remember her for being a beautiful and smart person, and her mother said that her great personality caused anyone she met to like her. 

“She had a great personality, she was beautiful,” Sparks said. “Very intelligent, very intelligent, 4.0 grade point average when she was in school.” 

“I just hope that maybe somebody learned from this,” Sparks said. 

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