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On what would’ve been her son’s 28th birthday, A$AP Yams’ mother, Tatianna Paulino, wrote an essay for Noisey detailing how she learned about Yams’ fatal overdose, his role in A$AP Mob, and how she hopes drug education will change to prevent similar tragedies from occurring in the future.

About the heartbreaking moments immediately after learning of her son’s death, Paulino wrote:

My mind raced. I thought about Steven smiling, laughing, and him being a prankster. Sometimes when I arrived at home from work he would hide and then suddenly surprised me by saying, as loudly as he could, “boo.” He would laugh with his entire body. Other times when I was in bed asleep, he took great pleasure out of opening my eyelids with his fingers and asking, “Are you awake? Are you up?” His face would light up with the biggest grin.

He’s gone. We will never share those moments again. I couldn’t breath. I couldn’t think. I couldn’t believe that my only child was dead.

She described the “tremendous” pressure Yams felt trying to keep the A$AP Mob together and productive, though she noted that he also felt “as if he was being squeezed out of the group of creative friends” he’d worked so hard to maintain. “In my mind, his drug use was a strategy to decompress and release,” she wrote.

Paulino ended her essay pleading for an increased understanding of potentially dangerous drug combinations, like the one that killed her son.

Through my discussions with [Columbia University Professor and drug expert, Dr. Carl] Hart, I have learned that while it is possible to die from an overdose of an opioid alone, this is uncommon. The majority of opioid-related deaths involve multiple drugs, especially combining opioids with other sedatives, such as alcohol or benzodiazepines.

Sure enough, Steven’s toxicology report revealed that he had not only taken codeine, but he also had taken oxycodone (an opioid) and alprazolam (a benzodiazepine). Was he aware of the potential dangers of mixing opioids with other sedatives? I certainly wasn’t. Even if it makes us uncomfortable, I wish public health messages about drugs were more clear and simple in emphasizing real concerns as oppose to hyping less likely outcomes. I wish such messages simply stated, “Don’t combine opioids with other sedatives!” If they did, perhaps my son would be alive today.

Read the entire essay at Noisey.

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