Rio Ryan passed away March 20, 2022 from a suspected fentanyl drug overdose. Rio Ryan turned 21 on December 29, 2021. He was born in Flagstaff, Arizona as a 32-week premature Elvis look alike baby. Rio was much loved in our little mountain town of Flagstaff, Arizona. The entire Montessori school of Flagstaff Junior Academy cried when on December 2011 we moved to Murray, Utah. Rio had difficulty adjusting at 10 years old in middle of the school year to Utah culture.

He was a fun and likable kid and did make new friends. In 7th grade, Rio had two friends from school in Murray die from a gun accident and suicide. Rio soon became depressed and started to lose interest in things he used to enjoy. He started experimenting with alcohol, marijuana, pills and LSD. Rio started methamphetamines toward the beginning of the 10th grade. His self-medication soon turned into Heroin use towards the end of the school year.

Rio ran away after he tested positive for meth on a home drug test. He lived on the street for 2 weeks where his heroin and meth use advanced. He was in and out of rehabs and detox until the day he died of a suspected accidental drug overdose on March 20, 2022 (Spring Equinox).

During the last 6 years, Rio continued to struggle with depression and anxiety and continued to self-medicate with street and prescription drugs to help him cope. We suspect he was recently using Xanax laced with fentanyl and this is what killed him, but we will not know until the results of the autopsy.

Rio was incredibly intelligent, intuitive, and wise, he had theories and ideas that could change the world. He was a writer, a poet, a lover, a scientist, a fighter, and a dreamer. He had dreams of finishing school, going places no one has gone before, and helping other people going through things just like himself.

There are very little options for mental health and addiction. The options that are available are priced out of reach for most of us. The insurance system has made the deductible more important than keeping people healthy by costing many families out the possibility of treatment.

Our current system failed Rio, he was unable to consistently get the resources that he needed. We tried vocational rehab, multiple inpatient, and outpatient programs but few ever followed up with us or gave him the level of assistance he needed. We must do better!

I don’t know the right answers, but what I do know is that as a society we must take steps to protect our most vulnerable. Rio’s difficulty started in the 7th grade, maybe if mental health and drug addiction was better taught and more accessible, we as a society would have less young people dying from drugs.

We need to create affordable treatment that is compassionate and helpful. We must work harder to provide good rehabs, because not all treatment centers are caring. But most of all, we need to do what Rio would do and just love one another unconditionally.

If you know or suspect someone using fentanyl please speak out! And if you’re struggling, you’re not alone. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, don’t let pride cost you your life. You are worth it, there is a future after addiction. It doesn’t make you a snitch or a bad person for speaking out about someone using fentanyl it will save their life. Fentanyl will kill you, the people putting it into our community are truly evil. They do not care about you or anyone else. Please call the police and help get this off our streets before something like this happens to your friend, brother, sister or sibling, or your son, daughter or child.


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Life Story Info

Post Date

Mar 25, 2022

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NEXT Adisa Bakare Adisa Bakare


First I want to say you are not alone on the sad journey of feeling failed by resources meant to help mental health and addiction. There are so many feeling this loss everyday and myself I know it greatly. I want to send my condolences to your family and let you know that Rio is always smiling down on you and watching over you with the warmth of knowing that you did all you could to comfort and help him . May he rest in peace what a beautiful soul.

Katie peterson , West valley city, UT, US May 10, 2022

Thank you for writing Rio's story.

It is a tragedy to lose such a promising young adult.

I am sorry for Rio and his family.

When does it end and why isn't our government protecting vulnerable children. I don't know the answers.

Rio will continue his journey in the new dimension he entered. This is my prayer.

D , Holladay, UT, US Apr 05, 2022

The photo caught my eye, and that eye is now crying. I am so sorry for your loss because this story was my own brother. It is so hard to help somebody else that is addicted. My brother started using beer age 12 with his friends, graduated to hard alcohol, then cigarettes and drugs - became a "somewhat" functioning addict, but eventually he lost everything and is now in jail at age 50..... and as his family, we had though the years given him money, places to live, cars, clothing, food, thinking it was "love and support" - that didn't help, but only facilitated more and more addictive behavior. We could not take him in our houses anymore because of the need to steal, lie and do drugs, make drugs and then prostitution and selling drugs.

So many unaware people would point fingers and blame - there are no words to share how hopeless a family member is during this misery. Bless you for your love and support, and know that you are a wonder. Best of luck in healing.....and remember to go lightly on yourself.... you really did your best, and during your hopeless, dark moments of memory, he loves you and I'm sure is grateful for you. How lucky he was to be yours.

We all need to share these experiences so others know that there is no such thing as a "normal" family - these are "normal" life experiences of a society and hopefully by sharing we can become a stronger, healthier loving society. Best of luck.

Pamela , Murray, UT, US Mar 31, 2022

Thank you so much for sharing Rio's story. This is what needs to happen; more people talking about their struggles and loved ones and the complete lack of affordable and compassionate help for those with addictions. Like Rio, my brother self-medicated his depression and anxiety with street drugs. My parents literally went bankrupt trying every possible therapy, treatment, even paying off drug dealers so they wouldn't hurt him. Ultimately, my sweet brother decided to end his struggle.

What a fun and joyful picture you used for his memorial; he is that happy again.

Much love to you

Jennifer Franklin , Taylorsville, UT, US Mar 29, 2022

I am very sorry for your loss!! I do not personally know you or Rio, but I see the obituaries occasionally and seeing young souls pass is very hard and then to read your story, I am so sorry the system failed, it breaks my heart and also makes me upset.

Just know, even strangers are praying for you and your family.

Lynn , Salt Lake City, UT, US Mar 29, 2022

Alicia, what a beautiful, heart breaking tribute to your son. Sending you love and light during this unbearable time.

Sara Schmidt Mar 28, 2022

Such a beautifully honest heart wrenching tribute, my condolences to his family. As a child I lost my father to addiction and it has shaped my life forever. RIP young man you are loved.

Priscilla , Salt Lake City, UT, US Mar 28, 2022

This Obit broke my heart. I didn't know Rio but i have known many people who struggle with addiction. Our system of trading addiction and mental health is completely broken. To whoever wrote this obit thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Ben Goodrich , Salt Lake City , UT, US Mar 28, 2022

My heart broke for your family as I read Rio’s struggle, from experience I know it was the families struggle as well! I hope time will ease your pain.

mishie daknis , ft collins, CO, US Mar 27, 2022

I feel your pain. May The Perpetual Light Shine Upon Him.

Mike Mar 27, 2022

You don't know me and I don't know you. Please accept my sincerest condolences and deepest sympathy withthe passing of Rio. My heart has broken after readung his beautiful tribute. I can't agree more with you about things changing in this country for mental health patients. My daughter had a very bright future ahead of her until she got addicted to cocaine. Now she suffers greatly from Schizoaffective Disorder and she is the saddest human being I've ever seen. Sending healing love & light.

Lana Marsh , Millcreek, UT, US Mar 26, 2022

Mia here, sending love and light to Rio. What a poignant obituary. Rest in peace, dear one. Many people love you and know you didn't want to leave. We'll find each other on that rainbow bridge when the time comes. I'll stay in touch with your Mom, Dad and sister to make sure they stay alright. Big Hugs

Rubinstein Mia , Port Charlotte, FL, US Mar 26, 2022

I didn’t meet Rio in person, however, I know his wonderful mom, his smile, his beautiful soul, and his fight all too well. 21 years is too soon to say Goodbye.

My family and friends are sending our love to Rio’s family and friends as they process, celebrate his life and mourn his passing.

Your in our thoughts- With Love, Michelle

Michelle Marquez , Stansbury Park , UT, US Mar 25, 2022

What a beautiful healing day. Rio touched so many peoples lives. I’m so grateful for sharing and your honesty and your determination to advocate for change and try to reach out to others who need to hear Rio’s story. What a gift it is to be your life. Love you and sending lots of love to Dan and Nadia and your sweet mama, I just love her , she is filled with sunshine too☀️☀️☀️

Shannon Arnold Mar 25, 2022

I am so sorry for your loss I am going through the very same thing with two grandsons and a son I feel all of your pain. I pray for your healing and it's a constant worry you are correct we don't have enough options out there for those who don't have money. all we can do is pray for them. That's what at least gives me peace one day at a time my prayers are with you my friend

Debra Mar 25, 2022

We didn't meet Rio in person but I was able to get to know him through my daughter Gracie. He was a very special person & he will be in our hearts forever. I knew he had his struggles & I knew he was working on those struggles. Our hearts go out to your family and thank you for sharing his story.

Latisha Turner & Adam Avratin , Great Falls, MT, US Mar 25, 2022

So, so sorry for the loss of your beautiful son !

Dave Mar 25, 2022

I don't know you or your son, but my heart breaks for you. My own son, who is not much older than yours, struggled with addiction. I know how lucky we are that he is with us and clean today. I, like you, do not know how to bring about the answer other than education and support. You and your family are in my thoughts.

Raini Mar 25, 2022

Heartbreaking FACTS! I feel your anger in your sons obituary. I pray for better insurance and health policies for our troubled youth and even adults.

I hope you find comfort in knowing he is at peace now and your heart will be comforted in the fond memories you have with your son.


Gina , West Jordan, UT, US Mar 25, 2022


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