FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- It's been more than three years since a Valley couple lost their son to opioid addiction.
On International Overdose Awareness Day, the Hortons are sharing Zachary's story to prevent another family from experiencing the pain they continue to live with.
Jim and Lynn Horton will forever feel an ache in their heart. Life hasn't gotten easier since their only child - Zach - passed away at 19 years old in January of 2020.
They describe him as a funny, caring and smart kid - with one heck of a smile. Zach was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), and was also struggling with depression.
"He was being treated by a psychologist for just regular therapy and taking antidepressants," said Lynn. "We were dealing with the depression, but I think that's probably why he started experimenting with drugs."
Zach was a student at Clovis North.
Looking back, the Hortons believe his addiction to opioids started as he went into senior year.
"We didn't realize the depth of the issue until he actually passed out in a class one day, and his friends covered for him," said Lynn. "But after that, we said 'We're gonna get you an assessment.' and that's when we found out he was addicted to a drug called Opana, which is kind of a heavy-duty painkiller and more so than like OxyContin."
For 10 months, Zach worked on his recovery - but struggled with relapses.
About seven months after his graduation, Zach died from an overdose.
Now - his parents wish they could have approached his opioid addiction differently. As frustrated as they were, they wish they showed their son more love.
"Even when they're screaming at you how much they hate you and 'Why are you doing this to me?' because that's really not them talking. They really need that love and that support from the people closest to them," Jim shared. "I truly believe that that's the best opportunity for them to be able to find their way back to sobriety."
The couple created the Zachary Horton Foundation to honor their son. The goal is to end the stigma surrounding addiction by providing education and support.
Thursday night, the foundation is holding an event for International Overdose Awareness Day at The Mug Community Coffee Shop in northeast Fresno, from 7-8:30 p.m. They'll remember those who lost their lives to addiction, but also celebrate and support those who are still here. Narcan and fentanyl testing strips are also being given away.
For more information about the foundation, visit the Zachary Horton Foundation website.