CLEVELAND - "I think one of the most important things parents need to understand is that this can happen in your world,” said Rob Brandt.
Brandt’s son Robby, then 20, died of a heroin overdose in 2011.
One year later, he and his family launched Robby’s Voice, a non-profit organization focused on promoting awareness and education surrounding drug addiction.
Brandt said he has spoken to at least 20,000 people at schools, rehabs and community organizations.
"When we went through this, we were lost in the journey. The resources weren't there. Leading up to our experience, the word wasn't out. . . You're in this whirlwind and you're trying to figure out everything as you're going through it and we just decided that we didn't want other families to be lost in the journey the way were,” he said.
Brandt said his son’s addiction started the summer before his sophomore year of high school when he was given a prescription for painkillers after having his wisdom teeth removed.
"As he went through school, and prescription pills are readily available in school, when the opportunity to get a hold of them presented itself, his brain was like, ‘Wow, that felt good. Comes from a doctor, comes from a pharmacy, how can it really be bad for me?’ So he started to use prescription pills and before you knew it . . . he was addicted to the pills,” said Brandt.
Brandt said Robby recognized his addiction was dangerous and struggled to stay sober through high school and one year of college.
Robby then decided to fulfill his dream of joining the military and enlisted in the National Guard. It was also an opportunity to get clean.
"But when he (Robby) came back from his training ... he ran into an old friend that he used to buy pills with and that friend introduced him to heroin,” he said.
“He became addicted to heroin rapidly,” said Brandt.
“It was rehab, relapse, rehab, you know fighting every day, battling every day to make the right decisions,” he said.
On Oct. 21, 2011, Robby met his dealer on the east side of Cleveland and died after using the drug.
He had been clean for about 110 days.
"It's just, it's devastating. It's a devastation that doesn't go away. It's a devastation that you have to live with every single day,” said Brandt.
Brandt said Robby was energetic, fun loving and caring.
"He'd change the temperature in a room, you know, so when he came in a room, the mood lightened, people smiled,” said Brandt.
Brandt said sharing his son’s story never gets easier for him, or his wife, Carla.
“It keeps us in that place every single day. Every family we talk to, every event that we go speak at, we stay kind of in the same place and time that we were in October 2011,” he said.
However, he said it more important to educate families about the dangerous of drug abuse.
“We just believe that it has to be done,” he said.
“It’s a message Robby wanted to deliver,” said Brandt.
For more information on Robby’s voice: www.robbysvoice.com
Join NewsChannel5 Investigator Sarah Buduson as she tours the Ohio State Highway Patrol drug storage unit and gives insight on where dealers are secretly hiding drugs in their vehicles Monday on NewsChannel5 at 6 p.m.