Experience with an opioid addict | Reporter’s notebook

Experience with an opioid addict | Reporter’s notebook

We commend San Juan County for joining a national lawsuit against pharmaceutical opiate manufacturers and distributors. These companies have made it easy for people to get hooked on opioids – both legal and illegal – and hundreds of cities and counties are uniting in a lawsuit to hold those companies responsible for their involvement in this crisis.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 115 Americans die of opioid overdoses every day. A close family member of mine was almost part of that statistic in 2012. We’ll call her Laura.

I had started a new job and was just ending my lunch break on a Monday when I received a call that Laura was taken to the emergency room because she had overdosed on prescription medications. I rushed to the hospital and sat with Laura as she lay unresponsive. For several hours she was in and out of consciousness, talking incoherently. I was told that we would be lucky if she made it through the night alive. This was the fifth and worst time she had overdosed.

She was still very out of it when I went to visit her the next morning. The doctors said they’d be surprised if she did not have permanent brain damage from this experience. I feared that Laura, one of my best friends as well as a family member, would never be the same. She woke the next day, but it was apparent she had sustained brain damage.

Laura had been addicted to prescription medications since she was a young teen. Her husband has stuck with her through more than 20 years of marriage as her addiction has reared its ugly head time and time again. The day of the incident, it was her husband who found her not breathing, foam around her lips, as she lay in bed. He called 911 and began doing chest compressions. Thankfully he knew what to do.

The ease at which prescription opioids are provided to addicts – even after overdosing on them at least once before – is upsetting. It’s disappointing that the manufacturers of these drugs have not been held responsible for their participation in this crisis. The blame has been placed on the users for years, and that needs to change. Many people who abuse prescription drugs become addicted because they see no other alternative to ease their physical pain. After her overdose, Laura said she wasn’t intending to take as many pills as she did, and she wasn’t trying to kill herself.

She continues to struggle with addiction. The problem is that she takes a pill, or two, then a half hour later forgets and doesn’t feel relief, so she takes one or two more. To this day, her husband monitors her intake closely. She is an addict, and will be for the rest of her life.