Songwriter Brad Warren Reflects on Son’s Death By Drug Overdose: ‘Don’t Be Embarrassed to Ask for Help’
Country songwriter Brad Warren is speaking out nearly three months after his son Sage's death. The 21-year-old died of an accidental drug overdose, the tunesmith explains, and shares both his advice to those who may be grappling with a loved one's addiction and his gratitude for the support his family has received in recent weeks.
Sage Michael Warren died on May 18, leaving behind his parents, Brad and Michelle Warren; two younger siblings, Quinn Douglas and Jude Fox; and his grandparents, Barbara Warren and Donna and Emmett Collins. His obituary did not offer a cause of death, but in a Sunday (Aug. 16) post to Facebook, Brad Warren explains that Sage died in his sleep, after taking "a small amount of drugs apparently laced with fentanyl."
"I’m not sure when his struggle with drugs began, but I recognized the addictive behavior when he was around 10," says Warren, who himself is 15 years sober. "I saw things in Sage early that gave me concern."
His parents occasionally caught him drinking or smoking pot in high school, but Sage's addiction struggles began in earnest when he was in college at East Tennessee State University: "He started partying, taking Adderall to study, and I assume using hard drugs," Warren shares.
"When we saw him that year, his behavior was erratic, and we were more than a little concerned," the songwriter adds. He and his wife made Sage come back to Nashville after a 2017 DUI; they held an intervention in February of 2019, and Sage agreed to go to rehab.
"He came out a completely different young man, on fire for sobriety, God and doing things the right way," Warren says. "It was the best year of my life. I said that to many people many times before he died ... We experienced recovery, strength and hope in a way I couldn't have previously imagined."
However, Sage "began slipping off the path" in 2020, especially during the novel coronavirus quarantine. He didn't like the virtual versions of his 12-step meetings, and although his father "cautioned him to stay diligent," Warren says his son "started letting go of the things that had brought him life."
"I knew he had been smoking pot again," Warren says, "but had no idea he’d been dabbling with hard drugs as well. On May 18, I got the call that keeps every parent awake a few minutes longer every night."
Warren and his wife want to use Sage's death to help others, he says, though they are not sure of an exact plan just yet. His Facebook post ends, however, with some advice: "Addiction is a disease ... Don't be embarrassed to ask for help," he writes, specifically speaking to fellow parents.
"KIDS ... Treat alcohol like a loaded gun and drugs like a ticking time bomb," Warren adds. "A loaded gun is not always a bad thing, but we must always respect the danger it poses when we don’t respect the damage it’s capable of."
Brad Warren and his brother Brett, together known as the Warren Brothers, have been hit songwriters in Nashville since the mid-1990s. Throughout the years, they've written Toby Keith's "Red Solo Cup," Blake Shelton's "Every Time I Hear That Song," Jason Aldean's "We Back" and many more.
Unimaginable Pain: These Country Singers Have Also Lost Children