Over the Counter Killer

02/02/2004 at 12:00 PM EST

Over the Counter Killer
"I'm still in such disbelief that he's not going to come home on the weekend with his laundry saying, 'Hi, Mom,' " says Linda Frary (with husband Greg in the room of their son Jon, inset, who died in September after overdosing on DXM).
Michelle Litvin; Courtesy Frary Family
Greg and Linda Frary never worried about their son Jon. An outgoing honors student at Illinois State University in Normal, he was less than three months away from earning his degree in psychology when his girlfriend called his family Sept. 24, concerned because she hadn't been able to reach him for a day. Speeding 30 miles from his home in Peoria, Greg entered his son's apartment with the help of a maintenance worker and walked into every parent's nightmare: Jon, 22, lay dead on the floor of the bedroom, a bottle of white powder a few feet away. "I was going to have to bury my child," says Greg, 51. "It was so out of the natural order of life."

The Frarys soon learned the cause of their son's death: Jon had overdosed on dextromethorphan (DXM), an over-the-counter cough suppressant. Although his family never knew him to use drugs, the day after Jon's body was found, a friend revealed that the pair had been buying DXM legally on the Internet for months and experimenting with it for its hallucinogenic properties. The two young men had even exchanged audiotapes describing their visions. "In Jon's mind, because it was legal, it had to be safe," says Greg. "He made a mistake."

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