FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – It has been called a silent epidemic striking without warning.

In 2017, some 46,000 Americans died of overdoses associated with the use of opioids, powerful and highly addictive painkillers.

Holden Stucky, 24, was one of them.

Holden Stucky (courtesy: Stucky family)

“Holden was very handsome,” says his mother, Mellina. “Extremely bright, well-read, loved to travel, loved to cook.”

Then in May of that year, Holden broke his arm.

“Fell off his long board and had a major surgery,” Mellina recalled. “I understand needing some pain medication, but not the amount the he was prescribed.”

Between May and September 2017, his parents say Holden was prescribed more than 600 opioid pills for the increasingly difficult to manage pain.

“On September 25th, on his mother’s, my wife’s birthday, we found him,” says Alan Stucky. “Cause of death: opioid overdose.”

Alan Stucky is UNT System Vice Chancellor and General Counsel, but he spoke to those gathered at the UNT Health Science Center in Fort Worth Tuesday as a still grieving dad.

“It’s too late for us,” says Alan Stucky. “I live with the very real fear that I’ll be called upon to save someone’s life, and I won’t have the means to do it. So I carry Narcan wherever I go.”

Narcan is the brand name for the opioid overdose reversal drug naxolone.

Following a training session, some 9,000 doses of the life-saving drug are being made available to UNT Health Science Center faculty, staff, students and community members.

“I wish we had known what to look for– the signs to look for– I wish that we had understood that addiction is a silent killer,” says Mellina Stucky who says she also carries Narcan.

The family has shared their pain publicly to encourage others to get help, to be prepared, and to now that addiction is a disease.

“It gives me a little hope,” says Alan. “It helps me if what we’ve gone through can save somebody else from going through that.”

“I think Holden would be proud that his death is gonna help someone else and we hope that, too,” adds his mother.