Family fights substance they say led to son’s suicide

WINDER, Ga. — John and Lauren Eden say their 22-year-old son John was bright, intelligent and ready to take on the world.

A junior at the University of Georgia in a Naval Intelligence program, the family believes he fell into a trap taking what he thought were natural substances, until those substances took over.

“He was just a good boy, he was my baby,” said Lauren.

“He had the whole world ahead of him,” said his father, John.

On May 3, 2015, John Eden took his life.

“He called me one day in a panic. My son usually is calm, cool, collected, wise to the world at 22, he called me in a panic and said you know mom, I don’t feel good I’m addicted to Kratom,” said Lauren describing how she first learned there was a problem.

Kratom, a plant native to Southeast Asia, can depending on how much is ingested, act as a stimulant or a sedative.

The Edens had never heard of the substance, which is legal in Georgia, that they say led their son to suicide.

“He had told us about Kratom, that he was taking it. You know ‘It makes me feel good, helps keep me awake’ and I said to him ‘what is this stuff I’ve never heard of this stuff?’ and he basically described it like a vitamin,” said Lauren Eden. “My son was all about being healthy, and not putting synthetics in your body.”

Lauren says her son came to them last year concerned about the drug’s effects and asking for help.

“My 6’4” baby boy slept in the bed with his mamma that night and probably about three or four he said, ‘you know mom, I’m feeling a bit better I’m gonna go back to the apartment. I’m just gonna start weaning myself off of this’ and I’m going what are you talking about, you’re going from panic to all of a sudden you’ve got this under control?” she recalled.

She says the family reached out to some rehabilitation centers that said they had no knowledge of Kratom, and John later told his parents he had stopped taking the substance.

Kratom (Photo: 11Alive)
“He acted like he had it under control, like it was not a big deal, like I was being overprotective mom,” said Lauren.

But the truth was he had not.

As a mom, I feel like maybe I should have been more aggressive, maybe I should have done more research or what I’m learning now is it was a spiral downward,” she said. “He was so addicted to this stuff. His tolerance level had built up so high that he couldn’t take enough Kratom to stop the withdrawals.”

After John’s death, the Edens found bags, bottles and packets of Kratom in their son’s apartment. Clues they think were left to lead them in their fight to prevent this from happening to someone else.

“I think my son is guiding us actually in this,” said Lauren. “He left us enough information to where I can spread the word and try to save another. I can’t bring back my son I can’t change what happened. I can’t but I can spread the word and maybe I can save someone else’s young person.”