On Sunday, the Boston Globe broke the news that the toxicology report from Jimmy Hayes’ autopsy came back. The official finding was “acute intoxication due to the combined effects of fentanyl and cocaine.” Dan Shaughnessy spoke with his family who want to spread the word about opiate dependency.
Most people think that there are always obvious outward signs of chemical dependency but other than his father having had addiction problems in the past and knowing some of the more subtle signs, no one knew about Jimmy Hayes’ struggles. Apparently a late career injury that came with a substantial amount of pain led to his taking opiates for pain management and he couldn’t kick the habit. His wife stated she had no idea he was going through this addiction after seeking treatment for it at an earlier time.
“I was completely shocked,’’ said Kristen. “I was so certain that it had nothing to do with drugs. I really thought it was a heart attack or anything that wasn’t that [drugs] . . . It didn’t make any sense, so it was hard. I was hoping to get a different phone call when they called. I was hoping to get some clarity and I was shocked to hear that it was that . . . He never showed any signs of a struggle at home.’’
Anyone going through this addiction may not be able to kick it on their own. Jimmy’s father Kevin, also a recovering addict, assisted him into getting in treatment. Like everyone else around Jimmy, he thought those dependency days were in his past.
“He called me three weeks later and said, ‘Dad, I’m hooked on these pills. I got injured and I started taking them and I never got off.’ And I said, ‘Well, let’s get you some help.’ He went to a place up in Haverhill. So he gets help and everything was on the path to recovery, I thought. But this [expletive] is so powerful.’’
Jimmy’s younger brother Kevin is dedicating his season to his brother’s memory. He’s torn up about the fact that his brother passed far too young at 31 and that he would do anything he could for anyone else such was his giving spirit. The Boston Bruins, for whom Jimmy played 2 seasons, are wearing a tribute to him on the helmets this season.
Thinking of you always, Jimmy. 💛🖤 pic.twitter.com/bVpUMxQbjV
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) October 17, 2021
One doesn’t have to exhibit the stereotypical signs of addiction to be going through it. Nor should they be maligned as having a moral issue for it: anyone can become addicted to opiate derived pain medication and the synthetic versions like fentanyl. It wasn’t Jimmy’s fault that he took what was prescribed by team doctors and that he wasn’t able to kick the habit. It’s been clear for a while that once their playing time is over, athletes are often neglected by the sport and their leagues. It’s happened too much in the past. Hopefully Jimmy’s unfortunate passing and his family’s telling his story will make these sport leagues more compassionate toward former players and look into new treatment options for current ones.