By Ross and Nancy Friedman
The world lost a treasure when our son, Gregory Paul Friedman, died in West Hollywood on the afternoon of August 4, 2017. What matters most to us now is preserving the memory of the special person he was and spreading the lessons to be learned from his final days and moments. We thank you for reading and remembering this vital story.
Until his final week, Greg was a playful, healthy (in both mind and body), productive and very fit young man. Greg was operating at a brilliant level without any sign of slippage or despair. We recommend you read his obituary here to appreciate the unique strengths and positive influence that Greg exhibited. The words calm and power are usually in-congruent, but are a complimentary fit in describing Greg. For us he was all that, but also just our boy. It makes no sense that we should be without him hereon.
This tragedy occurred because of the oversized impact of an adulterated recreational drug despite Greg’s desire to live. Greg was absolutely not a substance abuser, an addict, depressed or debilitated in his life.
A week before his demise, he was on a weekend holiday when a childhood friend brought the recreational drug ecstasy (aka MDMA) to a concert, despite Greg having asked him not to. Greg voluntarily ingested this dangerous substance, which had been purchased off the street by his friend. In its synthesis, this drug was laced or tainted with an unknown harmful substance, which we have learned is tragically rampant. Greg immediately expressed signs of significant physical and mental distress and was taken back to his lodging to sleep it off.
The next morning Greg appeared recovered, but he was still reeling inside. He was strong and disciplined enough to cope and manage through the balance of the weekend, even appearing to be his normal self.
Greg returned to his home for the work week but continued to struggle and suffer from the ongoing effects and significant withdrawal of the adulterated ecstasy, including sleeplessness and anxiety. He carried on with his life and work despite his inner struggle, continuing his routine of physical exercise, attempting to regain his equilibrium. During that week, he wisely visited two health care professionals, resulting in prescriptions that not only did not resolve the chemical-induced turmoil, but may even have exacerbated the ill effects. When Greg described what he was going through to those close to him and the professionals, he used words like “portal into hell”, “parallel universe” and “broken reality”. His downward spiral could have easily been broken had he received appropriate care routinely administered through hospital emergency rooms and their common protocols addressing this condition.
By week’s end, Greg’s complex, amazing brain became short-circuited and snapped by the effects of the original chemical. He was not himself. In this altered state, he experienced what medical experts advised was a psychotic break, abruptly stood up from his desk on an otherwise normal Friday afternoon, left his ever-present pup, Rhodes, leashed to his chair, and walked out of his office, never to return.
Greg’s personal notes, digital trail, friends, colleagues and loved ones confirm there was NO sign of Greg having grown depressed, challenged, despondent, or any related condition prior to the weeklong struggle from the ecstasy. He remained to the end his usual high-performing, multi-faceted, life-loving self. As stated, Greg wanted to live.
Greg’s passing was entirely preventable and avoidable. Due to his strong character, body and will, along with his conscientious tendencies, his signs and words of distress were overlooked. It apparently was not evident during his final week to those around him that he was experiencing psychosis in which he was a shell of himself, impaired, and in extreme danger.
More than 1,200 people came from across the country to celebrate Greg’s life. They included the woman who he was about to engage, the sensei who trained him to win national karate championships as a boy, his fraternity brothers from Tulane University (where he attended with an academic Presidential Scholarship), and the entire high school football team from where his legend stands a decade on. We heard tear-soaked stories from lifelong friends who revered and loved Greg for his wit, humility, artistry, and deep intellect, and counted on him for his thoughtful perspective. He was kind and attentive to all. As an avid reader, one of his favorite books was Daniel Quinn’s Ishmael, which explores the human relationship with nature. His passing caused sales of Ishmael to spike.
As a child, Greg was a gifted artist and athlete, shared video games with his contemporaries, symphony with his grandma, and classic poems with his grandpa. As an adult, Greg loved travel, hiking, surfing, scuba diving, biking, rugby, and boxing among many physical activities.
Grasping for any good that can come from Greg’s death, perhaps he might now help others to live. He donated his body to help those in need. More importantly, his story has inspired family and friends to establish a foundation in his name, the mission of which will be to provide risk and use awareness to recreational drug users and treatment protocols to those who touch them and to medical care providers.
If you choose to take any drug, be certain to understand its risks and to have (and follow) a plan to obtain appropriate help if it goes wrong in any way. If a concert drug could lay low one as vibrant and full of life as Greg Friedman, we must all take care.