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Medical examiner confirms Palm Harbor teen's death was prescription drug overdose

PALM HARBOR — A medical examiner's report released Friday confirmed what many in the community had suspected.

Palm Harbor University High student Tyler Joseph Dobies, 15, died Feb. 21 of an accidental overdose of oxycodone and alprazolam, or Xanax, the report says.

Many in the community had linked Tyler's death and the death of another Palm Harbor University High student this year to overdoses of prescriptions drugs.

The other teen, a junior, 17, died in May, but the medical examiner's office does not expect to release that report until August.

Community members feared prescription drug use was far more widespread. Last month, Palm Harbor University High principal Herman Allen was so concerned that he held a campus meeting, a "Community Call to Action." About 200 parents, students and educators attended.

Heidi Wincek, whose daughter was a freshman at the school this year, says her daughter is not into drugs, but she's worried about others. She's heard that some students put pills on classroom window sills so that others in the next class can pick them up, she said.

"I guess kids are going to continue," said Wincek, 46. "Maybe, after a while, when parents feel strong enough, something good can come out of these tragedies."

In 2008, 15.7 percent of Pinellas County high school students reported using prescription pain relievers at least once in their lives, according to the Florida Youth Substance Abuse Survey.

Last year, 402 accidental drug-related deaths occurred in Pinellas and Pasco counties, according to the Pinellas-Pasco Medical Examiner's Office. Of those, 305 were attributed to prescription drugs. More than half involved people 36 to 55 years old, records show. Last year, three deaths of boys 15 to 17 years old involved prescription drugs.

Tyler Dobies' parents couldn't be reached Friday.

Tyler, who was born in Dunedin, was on the school hockey team and the Pinellas Sheriff's Police Athletic League hockey team. A Facebook page was set up to honor his memory.

"I choose happy," one friend wrote. "I choose to remember the good times and celebrate your life. I hope others do the same in your spirit, you would not want us to be sad, you'd want us to play hockey, celebrate, and rock out with our iPods loud! This we will do … for you!"

Lorri Helfand can be reached at or (727) 445-4155.

Medical examiner confirms Palm Harbor teen's death was prescription drug overdose 06/11/10 [Last modified: Friday, June 11, 2010 11:38pm]
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