She wondered if I'd do an article on her son's death.

Maybe, she said, his story would keep others from killing themselves the way he killed himself.He was her first child, born to a household of privilege. The family beached at a private club, spent summers at a second home. Young Sam excelled at tennis and attended private schools. She felt money would guarantee him a good future.

But of course there were ups and downs. Sam didn't seem to like school. He began to spend time with questionable friends - not from the preppie background that had been part of the family's world. She told herself it was just a phase. Many children act out. It's part of growing up.

When he was 14, she caught him smoking pot in the attic. He refused to talk about it.

Not long after, her husband noticed he was missing some money he'd left on a dresser. Sam denied it. It happened again. When confronted, he lashed out.

They tried taking him to psychiatrists. They switched him to an alternative high school. She wondered whether she and her husband had been there enough for him when he was young.

After graduating, he got a full-time job. That seemed to work for him. A year later, he enrolled in the University of Massachusetts. His grades were excellent. Finally the phase seemed to be over.

He graduated cum laude. She was there to see him get his diploma. She was very proud, but concerned at how thin he was. A typical college student, she told herself - studied hard and ate badly.

A week later Sam told his mother he needed her help. He had a problem with cocaine. He was 24.

She paid his way into an outpatient clinic. The withdrawal was difficult, but he made it.

Soon he had a good job and a fiancee. Then the girl broke up with him and the pain came back, and he did what he'd always done to deal with it. Only this time, he decided to try a new drug.

Today his mother will tell you it's why her son is no longer alive.

One day he told her about it. Nothing, he said, had made him feel as good - as numb - as crack. The high would last three or four hours.

She asked where he got it.

He mentioned a street corner where it was always available. But there were many street corners, he added. It was everywhere.

As bad as the other drugs had been, this, she noticed, was something else. It made him unable to function. The day after smoking it, he couldn't go to work. He seemed to just be existing.

He began to come by to see her when he was low. He would break down and cry. He would give anything, he said, if he could kick this habit.

She spent still more money trying to help him. She got him enrolled in various groups and organizations. Each would work for a while, but then he'd hit a snag in his life - problems with a girlfriend, problems with a job - and he would slide back. It ate up all his money. A good high was $150, and he'd get high twice a week. Always, the next day, he'd be a wreck.

And always she would try one more time to get him help. Then, last November, he met her for coffee. He looked terrible, much older than his 26 years. He was afraid of the people that were selling it to him. He told her he was losing his grip on things. He knew he'd spent much of his life with drugs, but this, he said, was different. This was taking him over.

The night before Christmas Eve, he disappeared. Several days later his landlady found him. It was by his own hand, not the chemical, but clearly it was the chemical that killed him.

She has something she wants to say.

She, more than most, understands those who need to take away pain.

But this chemical won't do it, she says. It will only create more.