OWN Host Laura Berman Warns of Social Media Dangers After Son's Fatal Overdose: 'I Was So Furious'
Dr. Laura Berman and her husband Samuel Chapman are speaking out, just two days after their son's death, in the hopes of helping other parents.
Berman, who hosts In the Bedroom on OWN, the Oprah Winfrey Network, first shared the tragic news Sunday on Instagram, telling her followers that her 16-year-old son Sammy died after buying fentanyl-laced Xanax from a drug dealer on Snapchat.
"I didn't intend for us to be on the news, I just felt helpless," she told NBC News' Kate Snow on Today Tuesday. "All I was thinking about is that this couldn't happen again and I was so furious and helpless."
She also shared some of the details behind Sammy's death, revealing that he had asked his dad for food just an hour before Berman discovered his body.
"He asked his dad for a cheeseburger," she explained. "An hour later, I went into his room because we'd been talking about an internship for the summer that he wanted to do, and he was on the floor, gone."
As for whether Sammy knew if the drugs he bought had fentanyl in them, his parents said "no way."
"Each different drug had a different color, the way a kid would love to see it," Chapman said of the "menu" Sammy used to purchase the drugs on Snapchat.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that fentanyl, a rapid-acting opioid, is 80 times as potent as morphine and hundreds of times more potent than heroin. Classified as a Schedule II drug by the federal government, its medical uses are typically pain management following surgery or for chronic pain.
"The big tech is not taking responsibility for helping police find the dealer and there's no excuse for it," Chapman said in a clip from the interview that aired on NBC News Monday night, while Berman added that they hope their story can help other parents look out for potential dangers on social media.
"When they see our son and can relate to him and see what happened to him, maybe it will sink in," she said. "And if it helps one kid, it's worth it."
In a statement to PEOPLE on Monday, a spokesperson for Snapchat said the company is "committed to working together with law enforcement in this case and in all instances where Snapchat is used for illegal purposes."
"We have zero tolerance for using Snapchat to buy or sell illegal drugs," the statement continued. "Using Snapchat for illegal purposes is firmly against our community guidelines and we enforce against these violations. We are constantly improving our technological capabilities to detect drug-related activity so that we can intervene proactively. … We have no higher priority than keeping Snapchat a safe environment and we will continue to invest in protecting our community."
Berman told NBC that while Sammy was "full of intellectual curiosity and excitement for the future," he was bored at home amid the coronavirus pandemic and susceptible to experimenting.
"There is a rash of kids like ours who are home bored during the pandemic and trying to entertain themselves," she said.
"I was just saying to a girlfriend the other day that one of the silver linings of the pandemic is that I've had both of my teenage boys trapped in the house, safe," Berman added. "And I was wrong."
If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, please contact the SAMHSA substance abuse helpline at 1-800-662-HELP.