TV therapist Laura Berman mourns son's fatal overdose: 'I was so furious'

Christi Carras
·3 min read
Laura Berman smiling in a green and pink cheetah-print dress
TV host Laura Berman's son died of an overdose Sunday. (Matt Sayles / Associated Press)

TV relationship therapist Laura Berman and her husband, Samuel Chapman, appeared on NBC's "Today” show Tuesday to discuss the death of their teen son.

Named after his father, 16-year-old Sam died Sunday after overdosing on fentanyl-laced Xanax he purchased via the Snapchat app.

Berman, known for hosting "In the Bedroom" on the Oprah Winfrey Network, believes her son was unaware he was buying fentanyl, and she is determined to prevent such a tragedy from befalling other families.

"I didn't intend for us to be on the news," Berman told NBC's Kate Snow via video chat. "All I was thinking about is that this couldn't happen again, and I was so furious and helpless."

While quarantining at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, Berman and Chapman said, their son was bored and looking for something to do when he discovered a list of drugs available for purchase on Snapchat. The popular social media platform allows users to send disappearing text, photo and video messages to one another.

This content is not available due to your privacy preferences.
Update your settings here to see it.

"This big, colorful menu came up with some man with a Twitter handle who was promising to bring [the drugs] by your house," Chapman said. "Each different drug had a different color, the way a kid would love to see it. And Snapchat is for the kids."

"[Sam] asked his dad for a cheeseburger, and 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 and gone," a tearful Berman said, adding that her son was "full of intellectual curiosity and excitement for the future."

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid 10 times more powerful than morphine that was linked to nearly four out of 10 fatal overdoses in the United States in 2017, before the drug made its way west.

It can cause death in a non-opioid user at doses as low as 2 milligrams and is currently one of the leading killers among Los Angeles' homeless population.

Since their son's overdose, Berman and Chapman have expressed interest in working with Snapchat to track and monitor the sale of drugs on the platform. In a statement provided to NBC, Snapchat offered its condolences and promised it is "committed to working with law enforcement ... in all instances where Snapchat is used for illegal purposes."

"If social media wants to pretend to be responsible, this is a great place for them to change their behavior," Chapman told Snow. "The Big Tech is not taking responsibility for helping the police find the dealer.

"When they see our son and can relate to him and see what happened to him, maybe it will sink in," Berman added. "And if it helps one kid, it's worth it."

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.