Manitoba

Isaac Babinsky's grieving family warns teens about deadly Xanax-alcohol mix

The family of Isaac Babinsky is warning others about the dangers of prescription drug abuse after the 18-year-old Winnipegger overdosed and died from mixing Xanax and alcohol in June.

Isaac Babinsky, 18, died a day before his Grade 12 graduation

Isaac Babinsky's grieving family warns teens about deadly Xanax-alcohol mix

6 years ago
Duration 1:27
A Winnipeg family is warning others about the dangers of prescription drug abuse after a teenager recently overdosed and died from mixing Xanax and alcohol.

A Winnipeg family is warning others about the dangers of prescription drug abuse after a teenager recently overdosed and died from mixing Xanax and alcohol.

Isaac Babinsky, 18, had been celebrating his upcoming graduation at a friend's house on June 18. The friends were hanging out and playing video games when Isaac made a deadly mistake.

"They were experimenting with Xanax and alcohol, and he wasn't much of a drinker," said Krista Derksen, Babinsky's older sister. 

"From what we heard, he went to sleep and when they all woke up in the morning, he didn't wake up."

Xanax — a brand name for alprazolam, a type of benzodiazepine — is typically prescribed for anxiety and seizures. When taken with alcohol, Xanax can have a dangerous impact on the brain, slowing a person's ability to think and breathe.

Isaac's family believes his breathing slowed, then stopped, and the teenager died in his sleep.

"We found out on Facebook," said Nicole Babinsky, another sister.

"I got a phone call from my sister saying there's 'Rest in Peace Isaac' on Facebook. With that, we immediately called his phone."

The sisters figured it was a prank, another one of Isaac's mischievous ploys to get a rise out of them just before graduation. At worst, they thought maybe he was hurt.

The sisters called other family members and found out their little brother had died. 

"I didn't believe it. It was the most horrible thing you could ever think," said Nicole.

Isaac's older brother, Jake, said he called his mother, heard her in tears and instantly dropped to his knees. 

"It's a feeling that I wouldn't wish upon anybody," Jake said.

They want to bring awareness so others don't have to go through the same tragedy.

Isaac Babinsky's siblings Krista Derksen, Nicole Babinsky, Mackenzie Simeonidis and Jake Babinsky are speaking about their youngest brother's death to warn others of the dangers of prescription drug abuse (CBC)

'A mistake turned tragic'

The toxicology report found a mixture of Xanax and alcohol in Isaac's blood.

"It definitely was just a tragic mistake, an accident," said Derksen. "I don't ever think he knew that mixing prescription drugs with alcohol could have that effect."

After Isaac's death, the family started to look into how common prescription drug abuse is, especially after some of Isaac's friends told them many teenagers were taking them for fun.

"I had no idea how it was such a crisis. I didn't know how easily accessible it is," Nicole Babinsky said.

Isaac's three sisters, all nurses, wish they'd talked to their brother about the dangers. Now the family wants to urge other families to educate themselves and talk to their teens about whether they're taking prescription medications that haven't been prescribed to them.

"We talked about marijuana, alcohol, unprotected sex, don't get into fights, don't drink and drive, don't do drugs and drive," Nicole Babinsky said of all the "older sibling" chats that they'd had with Isaac.

"We never talked about this because we didn't think we had to talk about this," said Derksen.

When the sedative-like effects of the pills are combined with binge drinking, kids lose track of how many pills they've even taken, making it all the more dangerous, she added.

'We're losing kids'

Prescription drug abuse among teenagers is on the rise in Manitoba, according to the Addictions Foundation of Manitoba.

"We're losing kids to addictions at very young ages, but we're also losing kids to overdoses. And that can't happen," said Const. Andrea Cain, a school resource police officer in the Seven Oaks School Division.

"The danger is mixing drugs and having too much in your system and possibly passing out."

Cain said she sees a lot of marijuana, alcohol and a wide spectrum of prescription drug abuse in the hundreds of kids she talks to at Winnipeg high schools. She said Xanax and Xanax bars — longer pills divided into quarters — are becoming increasingly popular among youth. 

"It is readily available, unfortunately. Kids can order it over the internet, over their Instagram or their Facebook. They can get it delivered to certain areas. It's very, very accessible," she said.

Manitoba's Office of the Chief Medical Examiner has reported 38 deaths in the province over the past 10 years due to accidental overdose for people age 16 to 20. Most of those deaths involved mixing drugs or mixing drugs and alcohol.

"Benzodiazepines themselves, if they are overdosed alone, rarely cause significant toxicity," said Ashley Walus, a clinical resource pharmacist with the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority.

"It's when they are overdosed in the context of other substances, alcohol of which is a big one, [that] you get problems."

She said signs of an overdose of Xanax and alcohol include blurred speech, loss of fine motor skills, control over body movements and depressed mental state. 

"And the biggest risk: it impacts your body's ability to breathe properly."

Isaac Babinsky, 18, had been celebrating his upcoming graduation at a friend's house when he mixed Xanax with alcohol. (CBC)

'He was robbed of so many good things'

Isaac Babinsky was thrilled about graduating and it was all he had been talking about, his family says.

He was supposed to be the first to cross the stage at West Kildonan Collegiate's convocation on June 20. But instead of reading his name, his principal called for a moment of silence in his honour.

His classmates each carried a rose for him as they collected their own diplomas. 

Isaac was proud of his achievements — including scoring the second-highest mark on the provincial math exam — and was excited for his future. He worked, volunteered at the Fire Fighters Museum in Winnipeg and worked out.

He cherished his family and even had "Family First" tattooed across his chest, and was a loving, hands-on uncle to the babies.

"He'll never get to have his own kids. He'll never get to get married. He'll never get to have that true love," said Mackenzie Simeonidis, another of Isaac's sisters, tears rolling down her cheeks.

"I feel like he was robbed of so many good things in life that you wish for your youngest brother."

The family hopes other parents and siblings educate themselves on the prescription drugs that are out there, and their dangers.

"It's not worth the risk. It's definitely not worth the risk. The pain you bring to not only friends, but to family, it's something you can't take back," said Jake Babinsky.

They hope other kids get the message, since their brother never will.

"We love him, we miss him, we would give anything to have him back," Nicole said, her voice breaking. "So don't do it. Don't do it to your family."

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