Bryan Tenney and Adam Hall were not your stereotypical drug abusers.
Friends since childhood and practically joined at the hip, the two boys were brought up in the church, were involved at school, and were always home on time or checked in when out late, their parents said.
Barbara Tenney said she and her husband, Mark, thought they knew what their son was into, until she found him early Feb. 17 in the bathroom of their home, dead from an apparent methadone overdose.
About two hours later in east Mesa, Stacy Hall went to her son Adam's room to wake him and made the same grim discovery.
About two weeks later, 23-year-old Bruce D. Gilbert overdosed and died at a friend's home in the 1400 block of South Almar in Mesa, according to police reports.
All of the young men came from middle- to upper middle-class backgrounds. Their parents said that doesn't mean anything anymore, given the pervasive nature of drugs today, and they want other parents to know that drugs can kill.
"They're in denial," Barbara Tenney said about parents when it comes to children and drug use. "As a mom, you want to believe the very best about your children."
Gilbert likely died of a lethal dose of heroin, while autopsy reports when released may indicate Hall and Tenney died from methadone or a cocktail of prescription drugs.
Mesa police said the deaths illustrate that drug abuse and its consequences know no social or economic boundaries, and that abusing legitimate drugs can be just as dangerous as flirting with street drugs such as heroin.
"It runs the gamut," said Mesa police detective Carl McCormies, who worked about 10 years as an undercover narcotics officer and drug unit task force supervisor.
"I've found meth labs in million-dollar homes," McCormies said. "We've arrested high professionals to homeless people."
According to statistics compiled by a federal drug prevention agency in the U.S. Office of Health and Human Services, there were 453 drug-related deaths in the Valley in 2001, the latest year data was available.
Of those deaths, heroin/morphine was a factor in 140 cases recorded in the drug mortality study, which was released Feb. 26 and compiled with data from the Maricopa County Forensic Science Center. There were 165 deaths related to the prescription drugs methadone, codeine and Oxycodone.
John Chandler, manager of the emergency room at Scottsdale Healthcare Osborn hospital, estimates he sees about five drug overdose cases a week on average. And those are the lucky ones.
"Sometimes it's shooting in the dark," Chandler said. "We don't know what they took. If someone doesn't find you in about 15 minutes — if they don't hear you hit the floor. In a matter of minutes your heart can stop."
Tempe police responded to 129 drug overdose calls in 2001 and 162 in 2002, said police Sgt. Dan Masters.
Some of those could have been unfounded, not related to street drugs or not involving deaths, Masters said.
Chandler police detective Emma Bribiescas said drug overdoses are more common with street drugs, where the user doesn't know its purity.
"It's most commonly seen with heroin," she said. "They get a new batch, the user will take it as a normal dosage, but it's more potent."
Gilbert was using heroin the night he died, police said.
Gilbert's mother, Diana Tenney, who isn't related the Bryan Tenney's family, said her son graduated from Gilbert's Highland High School, where he played football. Gilbert was artistic, liked to skateboard and snowboard, and was a musician. She described him as "all-American."
"He was handsome, cute, a good-looking kid," Tenney said.
Gilbert had gone to a party March 1 with his friend, John M. Walk and then returned to Walk's home on Almar. Sometime later, Gilbert injected heroin and then injected Walk with the drug, according to police reports.
Walk told police he woke up in his room and found Gilbert lying on the floor. It appeared Gilbert had vomited, and Walk said he slapped Gilbert's face and poured water on him trying to wake him.
According to the police report, Michael Walk, John's father, heard a commotion and found his son trying to pull Gilbert out his bedroom window. The younger Walk said he was trying to take him to get help.
"I went to the room and saw my son trying to lift the young man out the window," Michael Walk said in his statement. ". . . I checked for a pulse and could not feel one."
Mesa police are still investigating.
Detectives also are investigating the deaths of Bryan Tenney and Adam Hall.
When Bryan Tenney came home the night of Feb. 16, Barbara Tenney said he seemed fine when she talked to him through the bathroom door. He apparently never left the bathroom.
Bryan Tenney, a skateboard enthusiast who also played baseball, had dreams of becoming a stuntman until being seriously injured in a car crash last summer that left his older brother disabled.
Bryan Tenney had been taking prescription medicine since undergoing brain surgery at age 5, and after the crash he was prescribed Percocet.
Barbara Tenney told police her son has abused Soma and Valium in the past.
Adam Hall loved to go camping and snowboarding. But he had been abusing prescription drugs and alcohol. Stacy Hall said Adam Hall turned to his friends and was using drugs to "self-medicate."
Mesa police reports were redacted and did not list the drugs the boys are suspected of taking when they died.
Mark Tenney said he learned through a Phoenix police detective that Adam Hall may have taken a prescription paper or pad from his doctor and forged it for an unknown dosage of methadone.
"All we know is Adam filled out a prescription for methadone," Mark Tenney said.
Methadone was first synthesized by German scientists in World War II because of a morphine shortage, but now is used primarily to treat heroin addicts, according to the federal Drug Enforcement Administration. It is taken orally or injected, produces a narcotic or opiate-like effect, and is responsible for a number of overdose deaths.
Mark Tenney said he doesn't point the blame at either of the boys.
"They both did something stupid," he said.
Both teens were at one time involved in a rehabilitation program, as was Gilbert, their parents said.
But all of the parents interviewed for this story said that rehab wasn't enough.
Parents need to wake up and become directly involved in their children's lives even if it means it will upset them, they said.
"You should not let pride stand in your way of helping your kids," Mark Tenney said. "Parents need to swallow that pride and help their child at any cost."
"Parents and society want to keep it under the rug — it doesn't work," added Stacy Hall. "It doesn't work. You have to look. You have to do something."