In September of 2008, 17 year old Justin Veatch was an aspiring musician about to enter his senior year at Yorktown High School. Known as a good student, thoughtful, and musically talented, his world was filled with many friends and a loving family. However, on September 7th, Justin came home late from hanging out with a group of people his parents did not know. He went to bed – and never woke up.
Devastated, his family searched for answers until the autopsy report from the medical examiner revealed that Justin had succumbed to a heroin overdose. But while heroin may have been his killer, Justin’s father, Jeffrey Veatch, knows that it really all began with marijuana.
Now, Jeffrey works tirelessly to raise awareness of the dangers of marijuana and the heroin epidemic so that such a tragedy may be prevented in the future. In October of 2018, 10 years after the loss of his son, he penned a provoking opinion article entitled “Dad of heroin overdose victim warns against marijuana’s legalization in New York”. The article retells the events that led to Justin overdosing on heroin, and how and why Jeffrey feels that marijuana was the gateway.
A documentary was filmed not long after Justin’s passing called Whispering Spirits. The documentary tells Justin’s story and follows Jeffery and his family as they work through their devastating loss while reconnecting with Justin through the music he left behind. Adding emphasis to the heart of film is the soundtrack, which features Justin’s original song recordings. The documentary has received high praise for its raw message and has even been recommended by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD). Alongside the film is a discussion guide authored by Ellen Morehouse, Executive Director of Student Assistance Services Corp. in Tarrytown, a NCADD affiliate.
Jeffrey now regularly releases episodes of his podcast, The Drug Crisis: Faces Behind the Struggle. The show aspires to give a voice to those impacted by the drug crisis “in order to promote healing, understanding, and action”, and each episode features an interview with an affected person. His two most recent episodes featured Ryan Hampton, a core member of the team responsible for assembling the first-ever report on the state of drug abuse in the US by the US Surgeon General’s Office, and Karen Bailey, whose heartbreaking story of the loss of her son was featured in the recent Marijuana: Know the Truth PSA put forward by Drug Free America Foundation.
For more information on Justin Veatch, his father, and their legacy, check out the following resources: