By Karen Billing
At age 29, Aaron “Rubes” Rubin has been living with the devastating consequences of his prescription drug abuse for the last six years. When he was 23 years old the Poway High School graduate overdosed on OxyContin and was left a quadriplegic.
Although he cannot speak and can only communicate with raised fingers, blinks and head nods, he and his mother, Sherrie, are on a prescription pill education mission through their program “Rollin’ with Rubin.” The pair travels to schools and organizations across the country to talk about the dangers and life-threatening consequences of prescription pills and Aaron’s drug of choice, OxyContin.
OxyContin, is a pill used to treat severe or chronic pain. The small pills (the 80 mg. green pill being the most abused) are time released over 12 hours, but teenagers crush and snort or smoke them to get to get to the high more quickly.
To smoke it, teens crush the pill and put it in lines on a piece of tin foil. They will then light the foil from underneath and inhale the fumes, sometimes using a hollowed out pen.
Rubin and his parents also appeared this year on an episode of VH1’s “Celebrity Rehab,” talking to the patients about the destructive nature of prescription drugs.
Although Aaron lived, his hopes and dreams for the future died, Sherrie told a room full of R. Roger Rowe students on Oct. 26.
“We hope you will remember Aaron’s story for the rest of your life and what you have seen today will help you make good choices so you can continue to live a full life,” Sherrie said. “Aaron’s wish for you is not to feel sorry for him or us, his wish is that you remember every choice you make is not about just that moment but also your future.”
After Aaron’s overdose, he was in a coma for 3 1/2 weeks and the family was given a grim prognosis after he suffered a heart attack and two strokes — only a quarter of his brain survived.
“We were planning his funeral,” Sherrie said. “And then one day he opened his eyes.”
At first, Aaron was blind, could not walk and could not speak. Eventually his sight came back to him but his speech never returned and he is now confined to a wheelchair.
Sherrie said he fully understands what is going on around him but cannot speak — to communicate he uses blinks, nods and holds up the number “1” for yes and “2” for no.
Sherrie said she had to get to know the new Aaron, a different son than the one she lost the day he overdosed.
Not being able to speak and communicate can be frustrating for Aaron, but he knows the message he spreads with “Rollin’ with Rubin” is an important one.
Aaron started using pills his sophomore year of high school. After football games, he and his friends would use somas, a muscle relaxer that they got from Mexico. When partying, they’d drink, use other pills, such as Xanax, and smoke marijuana. Eventually he began to use OxyContin.
Aaron’s addiction to OxyContin became an uncontrollable force. He thought he could stop anytime he wanted but he couldn’t, even when he lost five friends in 11 months to drug overdoses.
“That’s how difficult it is to stop this monster if you start it in your life,” Sherrie said.
Eventually, he went to his parents for help and attended several rehabs, including one seven-month residential program.
“We thought he was back to himself,” Sherrie said, but eight weeks after coming home from rehab he decided to use one more time, this time with near fatal consequences.
Aaron overdosed at a party with his party “friends” — none of whom have come to visit him since he overdosed.
“Did you ever think anything bad would happen to you?” Sherrie asked Aaron,
He held up the number two: No.
“Did you use drugs because you thought it would help solve your problems?” she asked.
Number one: Yes.
“Did it solve them?”
Number two: No.
To learn more about “Rollin’ with Rubin” or Sherri Rubin’s H.O.P.E. (Heroin, OxyContin, Prescription Pill Education) organization, visit
Six tips to help your teen continue to live a healthy, drug-free life
- Don’t speak generally about drug and alcohol use — your teen needs to hear detailed and reality-driven messages.
- Emphasize what drug use can do to your teen’s future.
- Challenge your child to be a peer leader among his friends and to take personal responsibility for his actions and show others how to do the same.
- Encourage your teen to volunteer somewhere that he can see the impacts of drugs on your community.
- Use news reports about alcohol or drug-related incidents as discussion openers.
- Compliment your teen for all the things they do well and for the positive choices they make. Positive reinforcement can go a long way in preventing drug use among teens.