Luke’s Story

Luke Ronnei

Luke knew everyone. Seriously, everyone. He was the kind of charming, outgoing person who could (and did!) make new friends just standing in line at the coffee shop. He was hilarious, kind, and caring. He was magnetic, and people wanted to be around him.

But, like any person, what you saw on the surface wasn’t the whole story. He struggled with anxiety and ADD his whole life. His outgoing personality was part of how he coped: if he was making other people smile and laugh, then he could be happy too.

Today, we know that even legitimately prescribed medications can affect young, developing brains dramatically. We also know that personal and family history of mental health issues can amplify those effects. So, when Luke was prescribed opioids for the first time after having his wisdom teeth removed, his risk of developing Substance Use Disorder (SUD) increased significantly. It jumped even higher when he developed dry sockets and his prescription was extended.

By Fall, 2014 Luke was in active addiction to opioids. He entered a repetitive cycle of recovery and relapse. The good times were good and hopeful, but the bad times were really hard. Tragically, the cycle ended on on January 7, 2016 when, despite having been opioid free for 6 months, Luke relapsed and died at home from an accidental overdose. He was just 20 years old.

Through grief, towards hope

Luke’s story is a familiar story. It’s sad that it’s so familiar, but that’s part of what makes it powerful. We all know someone like Luke.

After Luke’s death, many people from our community reached out to share stories about how their children, siblings, cousins, friends, parents, and even they themselves struggled with addiction—particularly opioid addiction. We realized that SUD will continue to take lives if we don’t remove the stigma and shame associated with it. We saw a need for open, honest, and compassionate conversations about drugs, and effective, data-driven education to go with it.

We believe that’s the only way to Change the Outcome, so we created our organization to make it happen.

We started Change the Outcome to do something good with our pain and with our Luke’s memory. But our mission has always been to Change the Outcome for your Luke. We create meaningful change for young people in your community. We’re not focused on the past. We’re focused on a better future together by providing resources and effective education to young people.