Mom says methadone killed her son

Barb Sweet
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Woman becomes anti-drug advocate after teenager’s death

Mary Payne of St. John’s lost her son Jeffrey, 17, in March. She believes he obtained methadone as a street drug. — Photo by Barb Sweet/The Telegram

Mary Payne’s small living room is filled with mementoes of her son. Among them, a hockey glove, a ball cap signed by NHL player Danny Cleary, a large photo montage and a small cross fashioned from more pictures.

But it’s her grief and determination that overflows the room as she speaks.

Jeffrey Payne, 17, died on March 4, she says, after taking methadone apparently obtained as a street drug.

Not an addict

He was not in the opiate addiction drug therapy program and was not an addict, Payne says.

Rather, Jeffrey was a Grade 12 student at Bishop’s College, a hockey-crazed teenager who veered off into a life where easy cash brought a hard lesson.

Just as he began to realize that lesson, it all went horribly wrong.

“I was getting ready for his Grade 12 graduation, had his tie and everything bought,” Mary Payne says, breaking down as she notes he was buried wearing that tie instead.

“I knew he went down the wrong path, but I knew he came back to me again. I knew he wanted to do good, and that’s what kills me the most, the fact that he was very close to success.”

Mary knows the full force of her son’s death has not hit her yet and she is bracing herself for it by speaking out against drugs, against methadone being available on the street, and always about the good of her son.

“I want to let everybody know what a good kid my son was. My son is in the grave and I can’t let him die in vain. I want to show the world what the world thought of my boy,” says Payne, who is trying to organize a street hockey event for her modest west end cul-de-sac on the day Jeffrey would have turned 18 — June 24. 

Payne was not someone who talked to reporters before all this happened. Nor, she says, did she know much about drugs.

Her son had moved out of her home in December 2011, to share accommodations with an older man, a friend of his.

Payne says she called the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary to try to keep him at home, but was told he was over 16 and of age to make his own decision.

He started skipping school and then quit altogether. He would come home wearing new clothes and fancy sneakers.

When his mother questioned him, he confided in her and said he wouldn’t get caught. But she says he did — in an apparent drug run out of town — and was placed on probation.

He came back home late in February, went back to school and, she says, owned up to his mistakes. Payne says she spent every evening with her son.

Then her elderly mother, in a nursing home on the Southern Shore, had a fall.

That Saturday, Payne went out of town and phoned Jeffrey that night. He said he was watching a hockey game with his older brother.

“Everything was best kind. ‘Mom, I love you. See you tomorrow,’” she says.

When her oldest son went out, Jeffrey apparently had two friends over and sent a text message to another friend saying, “I think I’m going to try the ’done.”

But Mary Payne did not know that — he was fine when a family friend phoned him on Sunday.

By that suppertime, Payne returned to find Jeffrey stretched out on his bed in boxer shorts.

She thought he was asleep and closed his bedroom door. His probation officer called shortly after 9 p.m.

“When I went in and tried to wake him up, he was stone cold, freezing as ice. He had dried blood on his mouth,” she says.

“The probation officer kept saying, ‘Put the phone up to his ear.” And I was screaming. I said, ‘He’s dead! I knows he’s dead because he’s too ice cold.’

“It’s the biggest shock I had of my life.”

Payne says Jeffrey’s father lives on the mainland, and is also devastated by the death.

Some longstanding patients who use methadone are allowed to take their “carries” home rather than drink them in front of a pharmacist, and they are reportedly being sold for as much as $120 each on the street.

Payne says a full report on her son’s death won’t be done for weeks, but she’s been told there was a high level of methadone in his body.

She fears the intentions of whoever he bought the methadone from and says there was rumour her son was being marked for his involvement in the drug run.

But she says she’s unlikely to ever know the truth of what happened.

“I am hoping not just methadone — all the highly addictive drugs that are out there and that are killers should be off the streets,” she says. “And the ones that they are killing are the young teenagers.

“I didn’t know anything, that there were that many highly addictive drugs on the street. I never even thought about it before, but right now it scares me. It’s shocking what’s out there. I’m after finding out so much all on my own.”

The peer pressure facing kids is beyond anything from past generations, says Barry Smith, who coached Jeffrey, the No. 3 forward for the St. John’s minor hockey team PuckHogs.

Smith’s son played hockey with the short-statured youth, affectionately dubbed “Little Big Man.”

He wasn’t a star player, but he was a rink rat, Smith said.

And now he says he’ll be looking around for the Jeffrey Paynes in the dressing room — the kids who might be in for a harder time in life because of modest family incomes that make higher education difficult to achieve; the ones who are eager to please and don’t want to disappoint, leaving them vulnerable to being preyed upon by the wrong people.

“I was comfortable with him, that he’d do OK,” Smith says. “He did not strike me as someone that this was going to happen to.

“I was not the same person after that phone call. It changed me. You re-examine — what did you miss? Was there something that could have helped?”

Smith describes Jeffrey as streetwise, but always respectful.

“He really was a team player. We all loved him. … He went on the ice and inspired us all. He was all go, gave it everything he had,” says Smith, who coached Jeffrey since he was 13.

Through the years, he tried to keep the boy on his teams, because Mary Payne asked him to.

“I thought the world of him and he had high opinion of me,” he says.

Parents have to be even more vigilant now, to stay active and in communication with their children, Smith says, adding Payne was, and cared deeply, but she is a single parent who works hard.

Jeffrey’s hockey attendance started to dwindle, but there was no obvious red flag, Smith says, adding life in St. John’s has changed, making the pressure so much tougher for kids.

“It’s a rich-in-money type community. There was no such thing as all these types of drugs. Now there’s all this designer stuff,” he says.

“It’s scary what goes on at night.”

There will be an annual award now for the hardest working minor hockey forward in St. John’s. And Jeffrey’s jersey will be retired.

Mary Payne is hoping politicians, hockey players, kids, addictions groups and others will come out for her street hockey event. She is hoping to get some donations for food and prizes, and otherwise would love to see people support St. John’s minor hockey.

This weekend would have been Jeffrey’s graduation, and in December she will accept his diploma.

And she’ll likely keep talking, keep repeating her new slogan: “Go green, stay clean,” after her son’s favourite colour — he was crazy about one day owning a green Mustang.

“Right now, this is the only thing that’s keeping me going,” she says.

“It’s making me really strong.”

Organizations: NHL

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Recent comments

  • td
    August 22, 2013 - 13:11

    I have two teenage sons who where both drug just amazes me how they can go from fun loving kids and great hockey players to zombies. My now 17 year old son is doing really well just graduated high school and is away from the hard drugs..and is hoping to continue on with his education and get a trade..but i tryed everything to get them both help..and at the time they both didnt want to listen , they went from living on the streets, stealing and getting in trouble with the law and being incararated ...the last 4 years has been hell...and my now 18 year old is finally turning his life around..and going back to 17 year old son knew Jeff...its very sad when it has to end this way..there needs to be more information given to all age kids about all the drugs out there..Iam thankfull that it never ended this way for my kids BUT u never know the minute they will slip up again...the drug trade in NL is on really...

  • Debbie Penney
    June 27, 2012 - 13:06

    I really feel for the lady whose son died of a methadone dose, but the reality of it all is that methadone can be bought on the streets of St. John's and it could long before the methadone program ever started. Every time something like this happens people blame it on carries being allowed without even knowing where the methadone was actually purchased. Maybe the telegram should do a story on the availability of methadone and other drugs in this province.

  • a concerned mother
    June 27, 2012 - 10:11

    i have to agree with katy, as a mother who has a son with an addiction, he is on the methodone program and he is also closly monitored. he do have to take a drug test every week , although i dont like the methodone program i also dont like the availability of street drugs to teenagers and young adults , that being said my child do fuction normally , where as before he would be shaking and wondering where he was going to get his next oxy or whatever other drug he could snort. parents need to educate themselves on this because they say not my child . if your child is sleeping alot has sweats , violent , gets aggravated very easily , stealing from u has a big change in behavior its likely he or she is on pills, if they freak out and come back very calm they r on drugs, take it from someone that knows the sooner u get them help the better, dont down the metodone program unless your a parent who have a child with a severe addiction. my child is now working and saving money instead of trying to find money 4 his next fix. to all the parents who suspect their child is doing this read their tex messages if u can . here r a few words to look 4 . o,s which mean oxys pees which r perkasets , freezie which is coke, pinky which is oxys morph which is morphine , bombs which can be weed or extocy, and thats just a few. i would rather have my son on the methodone being monitored by a doctor , then passed out in the street wondering if he is going to die from an overdose. ps if your child says i dont touch that anymore dont believe them it only takes once to become addicted

  • Sarah Harris
    June 27, 2012 - 09:26

    Mary Payne is my cousin and my heart breaks for her loss. I live in T.O and we have a meth clinic just down the street from me and it is really sad when mobody gives a Damm about those people only when something happens and they get their 5 mins of fame shooting their mouth and hide until the next loss for some family Jeff R.I.P ANGEL BOY

  • Tracy Pinnix
    June 11, 2012 - 11:49

    I am so sorry for your loss!!! Something needs to be done about Methadone and soon! It is going directly from the pharmacy to the street! Enough already!!! Please visit stop methadone deaths on FB and stopmethadonedeaths. com, sign the petition and join the forum!

  • suzie
    June 08, 2012 - 18:02

    I have to say this makes me so mad, when is enough going to be enough. How many more kids have to die before something is going to be done about this system. Apparently it is not working, you have people on this program for over 8 years and they still say if they cant get it in the morning they are ready to kill someone. Who is following up on these people to see about cutting them back bit by bit so they are not on it for the rest of there lives. What's it going to take for this system to change maybe some politicians kid dying from this drug then maybe they will open up their eyes to see that their is a real problem here. Also they are getting there free methadone and then going out and doing other kinds of drugs, shouldnt they have to do a drug test to make sure they are not using any other drugs while on this program. I would really like someone from the government to inform us the public as to how this program is supposed to work and as for taking this drug home that should never be allowed how can you trust a drug addict, its not the person you are trusting its the addict.This has got to stop so no more kids like Jeff and Colton are gone to soon.

  • Michelle Adams Settimo
    May 31, 2012 - 07:06

    I am Mary's niece. I have not lived in Newfoundland for quite some time. I am so proud of my aunt for standing up and fighting to get the word out there. If she even reaches one kid it is worth it. The word needs to be spread like a virus. The more time goes on, the more complex the drugs become, the more damaging and the easier to obtain. No 17 year old deserves the fate that was handed to Jeffrey. He really was a good kid. Quiet, sweet and eager to please. It is such a tragedy to have lost someone so young who was finding his path back to the right side. Love you Mary, Danny and will never forget you Jeffrey. You will always be the sweet kid with the twinkle in your eye and the mischievous grin that was Mitchell's (my younger brother) shadow.

  • Judith Day
    May 30, 2012 - 12:16

    I am sorry for the loss of your son. many people especially the vulnerable teens are trying to cope with life's changes with drugs. I blame the multi-national pharmaceutical companies for many of these negative outcomes. We are living our lives popping pills. We are damaging our livers, kidneys, our circulatory system and our central nervous systems by popping drugs. Drugs to help us sleep, drugs to help us eat or not to eat, drugs to keep us calm, drugs to keep us feeling good, drugs for everything. Our bodies when healthy have every thing in it we need, When will we ever learn? when our health is gone or we are dead too soon. WE have to teach the children well, beginning as todlers to take care of this wonderful body and keep it healthy. I have learned through my own personal near death experience that drugs are not always the answer.

  • tonya roberts
    May 30, 2012 - 00:30

    My heart goes out to this mother. There is no worse pain than losing a child. These deaths have got to stop. Please visit

  • Duffy
    May 29, 2012 - 18:37

    Methadone puts the street drug dealer out of business beause the tax payer becomes the dope dealer and buys the dope for the addict via our government. When will we learn - Methadone has never worked anywhere in the Wold to reduce drug useage. We are all responsible for our actions.....................

  • Dan
    May 29, 2012 - 11:41

    Why are carries allowed in light of this? Addicted to methadone only means the drug company gets the money from users and not the local dealer. Lets get people off of drugs and not substitute for another

  • Blair Brookfield
    May 29, 2012 - 10:18

    Makes long for the good old days when all you could get was a bit of hash or bunk weed. LSD was the hardest drug and that wasn't around much.

      May 29, 2012 - 11:50

      We are all responsible for our actions. Unfortunately, some actions KILL.

  • Political watcher
    May 29, 2012 - 09:58

    If this drug is going o be dispensed then it should be taken on site and not carried away. Since the closing of a Pharmacy downtown, all I am hearing is the whining and outcry from the users of the Methadone program. Oh is oo far to go to get my dose; I get my dose too late in the day etc. Well boo hoo to you; how about the dialysis patient who has to drive hours thre or four times a week for their treatment? The methadone program is not working; all it is doing giving adicts a free high. This is the second death of a young person at the hands of what is supposed to be a "Controlled" drug. If we are to keep the program going then they should have to show up daily a ake the drug on site. If they are unable to do so then so be it, move on.

    • methadone patient
      May 29, 2012 - 13:41

      methadone does not make you high actually it makes you feel normal like before you started doing drugs it helps with the withdrawal and pain.

    • confused with people trying to defend drugs
      May 31, 2012 - 20:28

      If it doesn't make you high than why do so many people who are not on the program take it? I believe that with most patients they use it as a "relief" but as the article says, there are people allowed to take theirs home... it's the same with perks and oxy's. Peer pressure is too high, and drugs are easier to find than a tim horton's... this city needs to crack down fast and hard

      June 13, 2012 - 15:54


    • katy
      June 21, 2012 - 18:35

      People are dying from methadone not just from diversion but from their regular doctors, these drs dont know understand how methadone works, it has a long half long and for a nontolerant person this drug can stay in your body for up to 59hrs, and by this time you will still have half of the dose ingested. No one who is not tolerant to opiates should be given a script of 10mg methadone pills with instructions to take one every 4hrs, by the end of day two if your not already dead from it you will have a huge amount in your system...this drug has saved lives for someone who has a drug addiction and yes i think there needs to be more information given out to primary care drs but I wont blame the methadone patients or the clinics for this drug being out on the streets, not everyone on this is iresponsible and I dont believe its trading one drug for another but I do think something needs to be done to get the information out to the population that this drug like any drug can cause death and shouldnt be taken lightly, my 21 yr old son died from this on 2-6-12 having never taken it before, I went in and found him dead, the only difference from my sons story to most others is that I took my son to the emergency room where they hooked him to an IV, he was pale white, scratching himself all over, limp relaxed muscles in his face andd body, he was sick tto his stomach and he continued falling asleep in mid sentences, they kept him about 7-10hrs released him tellin me he was fine now and just needed to sleep it off, get lots of rest, never told what to look for in like weird noises or snoring, he was given zofran an hour or so before leaving the ER for vomiting, this worked a little but while on the drive home he threw up in my truck, i stopped and got him pepto bismol and milk and gave it to him oncee we got home, he never improved from that moment on, he threw up, got dry heaves and never got up out of his bed again, sometime in the early morning hours he died ....he was NEVER given narcan and now Im being told it took him "too long" to die from this even though his autopsy report states methadone intoxication as his cause of death, he ingested 80mgs of this stuff with no narcan given to him!!!! my life will never be tthe same again, finding my son like this was devastating and something that replays over and over in my mind almost every day, I ask, why didnt they give him narcan? why didnt they keep him longer and monitor him till he was out of the danger zone? why didnt they give me instructions on what to look for instead of telling me he just needs to "sleep it off" so many whys and no answers, this drug when abused and even when its not abused can be very unforgiving.....

    • katy
      June 21, 2012 - 18:49

      I know a few people who take methadone since my sons passing and I can tell you that those on MMT who are on a stable dose and do not participate in any further drug use DO NOT get a free high!! they dont get ANY high from this drug, once stable they are just like you and I, no euphoria, no high like heroin or opiate pain pills which is why they are given this drug in the first place, if they try and use any other opiates while on it the methadone blocks the "high" so sorry they do not get a free high... it sad how society looks at things they know NOTHING about....Im not for or against methadone one way or the other as my son died from and had he not gotten a hold of this stuff hed still be here now but I cant change that, but its not the clinics that this methadone is coming from thats killing most of these kids, its coming from normal every day doctors who prescribe this drug to their patients for pain, PAIN management NOT addiction..but these drs do not know how methadone works and so they instruct their patients to take an amount thats enough to cause their death in a nontolerant person, they cant take 80mgs in a day and survive unless theyre already taking another form of opiates, we need BETTER information provided to primary health care providers, stop blaming the clinics,maybe some of these people on a clinic sell their doses for other drugs but most do not because they have to have it in order to keep from going iinto withdrawal...theres just so much more to this drug than so many know...its just unforgiving when taken incorrectly....a 10mg methadone pill is not like a 10mg percocet and this is what needs to be taught in high schools around the worlld, in health care settings, in elementary schools, every where so that kids today will have knowwledge they need to make an informed decision about this drug if they chose to use it for whatever reason but they are saddly mistaken if they think it gets you 'high', it does not but how would a 17yr old know? or a 21 yr old know? they wouldnt unless theyve been given the right information about it......EDUCATION EDUCATION EDUCATION is some of the answers here........not blaming. just my thoughts on this.

  • Kevin Power
    May 29, 2012 - 09:28

    While this is a very sad story, it does not come as any surprise. The drug trade in NL, as well as other places, is thriving. Young people are getting lured into the drug culture. I have always had a very low opinion of drug dealers, this is one of the reasons why. They use people, destroy lives and use the Youth Justice Act to recruit youngsters and get them to peddle their destructive products. It is a major shame what happened to this young man and others like him.

  • Parent of a Bishops Graduate
    May 29, 2012 - 09:16

    God Bless you MOM... you do whatever it takes to help you get thru this ordeal... I have heard nothing but good things about Jeff and nothing can ever change that now... I will certainly be thinking and praying for you as we celebrate the graduating students... Jeff was never forgotten about and will always be considered as a graduate of the Bishops College graduating class of 2012

  • wayne
    May 29, 2012 - 08:59

    Such a sad story. There are HUNDREDS more out there who had not yet died but have come VERY close many times. People who were good, loving children now turned to mindless zombies because of greed filled drug pushers. It's easy to preach " They made the choice to take the drugs" ...that is true.......but most teenagers make a few bad driving too fast........texting while driving or trying some new way to get a buzz. Some get hooked by fast talking "friends" with lots of money and this is the result. This is only going to get WORSE until we stop arresting the "small fish" and go after the big pushers....and put MUCH more resources in to helpinh addicts instead of pushing them into more crime. God bless you Mrs. Payne.

  • chris maher
    May 29, 2012 - 07:25

    I know Mary personally , growing up in Aquaforte, I feel so bad for , keep smiling Mary , we love you

  • A mother
    May 29, 2012 - 07:23

    A very sad story indeed,I have a 13 year old boy and yes it scares me to no end how his life can turn around so sudden.We do talk to him all the time about makingthe right decision and staying away from what's out there.We tell him don,t even take so much as a candy or piece of gum from anyone.Right now we know hat he,s at but it only takes the wrong person for him to get in contact with.Stay strong Mary peace and closure will come to you

  • JT
    May 29, 2012 - 06:50

    Very sad. Kids today have many more perils to face than we did growing up, where drugs are concerned. The drug scene today is fraught with kids who went from a typical fun loving teen, to a drug user or drug dealer. I believe stories like this should be told in all our schools. Kids need to see, warts and all, what drug use can do to destroy their lives and the lives of their peers. I also believe parents must arm themselves with all the information they can on the drugs teens typically become involved in. In this day and age, ignorance is not bliss.