EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

September 1, 2013

Speaking out on heroin plague Addiction claimed their son, took toll on family

NORTH ANDOVER — Christopher Cote’s parents noted in the 24-year-old’s obituary that he will be remembered for his love of cats and that he lost his battle with drug addiction.

Christopher grew up in town, graduated from North Andover High School in 2007 and spent his whole life here. He was a varsity wrestler on two state champion teams in 2005 and 2006, played high school football and enjoyed baseball when he was younger.

He died on March 28 of a heroin overdose.

The challenging, roller-coaster seven years of drug use between the second championship wrestling team and his death earlier this year strained Matthew and Betsy Cote’s marriage, their relationship with their youngest child and the relationships between Christopher and his two older siblings.

“He started to take over our lives,” Matthew Cote said. “We had to fight for our lives.”

In Christopher’s obituary, the Cotes included his struggle with drug addiction, a rarity, because “we didn’t see a reason not to,” he said. “People know him, they know us. We wanted people to know what happened to him.”

The Cotes received cards from parents in similar situations, thanking them for their honesty.

“It’s so people know it’s out there and aren’t afraid of the stigma,” Matthew Cote said.

The Cotes said they found out Christopher first tried marijuana in seventh or eighth grade and tried without success to stop him. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, millions of people under the age of 18 try marijuana. A small fraction of those make the shift to harder drugs.

In its 2011 youth risk behavior survey, the CDC found that about 40 percent of all high schoolers had tried marijuana at least once. Broken down by grade, the report said 30 percent of ninth graders said they had tried it, a figure that rose to just under half by senior year.

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