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Ridgewood High students remember teen lost to drugs

Published Sep. 27, 2005

A morning school newscast pays tribute to senior Eric Przybyszewski while cautioning students: Don't do drugs.

The 19 students in first-period TV Production class wanted all of Ridgewood High School to remember their classmate, Eric Przybyszewski, the way they did _ grinning, laughing and slightly shy.

On Monday, the class edited together some video clips filmed over the past two years of Przybyszewski, a senior who died on Saturday. The montage was played during the morning newscast over the closed circuit TV.

But also during the newscast, the TV Production students included another message for their peers: Don't do drugs, or you might end up like Eric.

The 17-year-old died Saturday morning from an Ecstasy overdose after partying with five other teens, said officials at the Pasco County Sheriff's Office. Deputies are investigating who sold the fatal dose to Przybyszewski, and also are awaiting toxicology tests from the county Medical Examiner's office.

Ecstasy produces intense feelings of joy and the desire to touch and hug others. The drug first became popular with hard-partying college students in large areas and also is associated with all-night dance parties, or raves.

But in recent years, Ecstasy has filtered into smaller communities.This year alone, the Pasco Sheriff's Office has confiscated more Ecstasy pills than all other years combined. As of May, the agency had confiscated more than 5,000 doses of the drug.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Ecstasy produces psychedelic and stimulant effects for about three to six hours, and users are in danger of heart attacks, seizures and dehydration.

Przybyszewski came to the North Suncoast three years ago from Pennsylvania. He was a decent student, said TV Production teacher Thomas Loveland, and showed interest in video editing and production. The teen often would run the camera for the morning school newscast, preferring to be behind the lens.

"He was kind of shy," Loveland said.

To the casual observer, Loveland said, there was little indication that Przybyszewski was involved in drugs. "He hid it pretty well," Loveland said.

But Przybyszewski had been in a drug treatment program last year, family said.

His sister, 15-year-old Jenny Przybyszewski, told the Times on Saturday that Eric had used drugs for at least two years.

According to sheriff's deputies, Przybyszewski and his five friends took Ecstasy on Friday night. The five were at the New Port Richey home of 18-year-old Jana Sawyer, whose mother found Przybyszewski in the bathtub at 6 a.m., clad only in his Tommy Hilfiger boxer shorts and wrapped with towels.

Przybyszewski was breathing at that hour, but at 7:45 a.m., Sawyer woke her mother up and said the teen's pupils were dilated and had rolled back in his head.

Paramedics pronounced Przybyszewski dead at Sawyer's home.

"There's no way to make sense of this," Loveland said.

_ Tamara Lush is the police reporter in Pasco County.