Added: Sakia Gilmore - Date: 27.12.2021 02:35 - Views: 37544 - Clicks: 1068
Time and M ic present. Life After Addiction. After video of their overdose went viral, a couple got a chance at redemption. The video is hard to watch. A middle-aged man is bent backward over a bus-stop bench, eyes closed, head brushing the ground and a cell phone in his outstretched hand.
A few feet away, dangerously close to the road, a woman lies facedown on the sidewalk, her legs buckled under her. Others take out their phones and start recording. The man in the video is named Ron Hiers and the woman is his wife Carla. They had just picked up heroin and, too impatient to wait until they got home, walked into the bathroom of a nearby Walgreens and shot up. Then they headed for the bus stop and passed out. It took a dose of naloxone —a drug that paramedics, emergency medical technicians and even law-enforcement officers have started carrying for the ballooning of narcotic overdoses they see—to revive Ron and Carla.
They were taken to the hospital, and then police took Carla to jail for outstanding charges of petty theft. Ron found his way back home. They almost did. Every day across the country, nearly people die from overdoses of opioids, powerful narcotic painkillers that attach to cells and dull pain, slow breathing and bring on an overall sense of calm and satisfaction. Since , the rate of fatal prescription opioid overdoses in the U. It is an epidemic without boundaries, touching every corner of the nation, every income group and virtually every age, including a baby born in opioid withdrawal every 25 minutes.
In a September study on mortality in the U. Indeed, in some parts of the country, bodies pile up so quickly that medical examiners have resorted to storing the overflow in makeshift freezers when their morgues are full. In big cities and small towns alike, police officers are responding to more and more overdose calls, limiting their ability to address other crimes.
Even many firefighters now are expected to use naloxone, and are being called out to revive addicts who overdose so frequently they know them by name. In response to the growing crisis, President Trump declared a national public-health emergency on Oct. It was a broad call to action, but one that failed to allocate much-needed new funding to address the crisis. Many states already restrict how much opioids doctors can prescribe, and the Food and Drug Administration FDA took the unprecedented step last summer to pull from the market medications for which the addictive dangers outweigh the painkilling benefits.
The agency, along with the CDC, is pushing for changes in the way opioids are prescribed, including limiting the of pills doctors can prescribe at one time and restricting the conditions for which opioids can be dispensed. Pharmacies are also addressing the crisis; CVS announced this fall that it will only reimburse its beneficiaries for seven days of a prescription and will only dispense short-acting opioids and not long-acting versions to first-time users.
And last month Walgreens announced it will start selling the overdose-reversal drug Narcan over the counter—a move that can be seen as an acknowledgment of just how widespread the problem has become. These efforts, however, have had unintended consequences. Restricting access to legal opioids has led to an explosion of illegal substitutes that have similar narcotic effects. Drugs such as heroin, fentanyl, carfentanil and U are cheaper and in many cases more harmful than legal opioids because they are synthetic formulations with no FDA standards for safety and quality control.
The man-made formulas are so powerful that police officers participating in drug raids where fentanyl is confiscated have overdosed simply by breathing in particles of the drug released into the air. The toll has been evident in Memphis, where Ron and Carla overdosed on that sunny fall day. But statistics can seem like abstractions, s to be glossed over rather than felt as actual loss. Understanding how this crisis is upending lives, devastating families and changing communities requires hearing the stories of those with the most at stake. On Oct. Ron Hiers was born in Memphis in with a cleft palate.
He says he was bullied throughout school and had a knack for finding trouble. He was expelled from high school after a series of incidents, including threatening a teacher, and began drifting across the South, working construction to stay afloat. After he fell during a construction job and broke his heel, prescriptions for opioids like the pain reliever oxycodone became relatively easy to come by. Even after the bone had healed, Ron found a way to make it seem like the pain had returned—over and over again.
It was during a visit back home in Memphis, after Ron called one of his regular dealers to supply drugs for a party, that he met his wife Carla. They quickly bonded over their shared addiction. Like Ron, Carla says she began using drugs in high school, mostly to fit in, and found she loved the way opioids made her feel. Addiction is at its essence a hijacking. Parts of the brain that are dedicated to rewarding behavior and triggering feelings of satisfaction and calm are kidnapped by opioid drugs to induce a temporary state of ease and even euphoria.
Sarah Wakeman, director of the substance-use disorder initiative at Massachusetts General Hospital. Opioids are particularly adept at such snatching and seizing. The body has its own SWAT team that swoops in when pain erupts: receptors on nearly every cell in the body are primed to sound the alarm when you, say, put your hand on a hot stove or stub your toe.
Opioid receptors populate cells not just in the body, but in the brain and spinal cord as well. Their job is to tone down the firing pain als—the fast breathing, the feeling of panic and the excruciating feeling of ouch! For people with long-term, chronic pain, that can be essential to getting through the day.
But the receptors are also intimately networked with the pleasure and reward areas of the brain. They are supposed to counteract the unpleasant feeling of pain with the opposite sensation. The catch is that for people already at risk for addiction, once the brain and body get a taste of the pleasure override, they want more.
Neurologists now know that drugs like opioids can change the brain in people who develop addiction. The reward-oriented brain, the regions responsible for impulses and emotions, take precedence over the thinking parts that evaluate things like risk, benefit, consequences and delayed gratification. And because opioids can release more dopamine, the feel-good sensations triggered by the drug overpower any positive feelings from things like food, love and even sex. Absolutely nothing.
It buries your feelings so deep. They described their routine as if it were scripted: the pair would visit a hospital and Ron would pose as the patient, ing in with a made up name and Social Security , and spin a yarn about a toothache. He asked for antibiotics, not painkillers. Eventually, a sympathetic doctor would ask if he were also in pain, and prescribe an opioid. What Ron and Carla really wanted was his DEA , which is required for filling any prescription medication.
After a court case, they say they ultimately gave up custody to a family that adopted their daughter as an infant. Your addiction wants you to think that, Man, this is fine. This is normal; this is the way to live life. Ron had three children before he married Carla, and while he has reached out to all of them since he became sober, not all of them have welcomed him into their lives.
He says that the daughter he had with Carla does not want a relationship with him. He recalls coming home with his first child to a ransacked house and a warrant stuck to the door for drug possession.
When his second child was born, he says he left his wife while she was in labor to visit a strip club across the street from the hospital. Ron says he gave his son Xanax before sending him back home. It was her birthday, and she was on her way to a celebratory dinner when a relative called to say that her father had been on the news. She Googled the video and saw Ron sprawled across the bus stop. She only remembers her father when he was high, always asking her and his parents for money. When she was around 8, Paris says Ron was arrested in front of her and her friends.
I lost every friend I had, but I still thought he was a good guy. For a while Paris tried to help. She wrote motivational notes on pieces of paper that she would stick in his wallet, hoping they would remind him to not drink. Her father repaid her by stealing the birthday money and allowance she got from his parents. Paris cut off contact with her father, keeping him out of her life for 13 years, including her college graduation and her wedding.
She started referring to him as Ron rather than Dad. That changed once she saw the overdose video. The clip that had aired on the local news contained the for Addiction Campuses , a for-profit drug-addiction recovery company with four locations around the country. Paris dialed. On the other end of the line, the dispatcher for Addiction Campuses called Stacy Dodd, director of operations for their facility just over the Tennessee border in Mississippi.
A former addict, Dodd saw an opportunity to help Ron and help the center. Several months before his overdose, Ron was diagnosed with tonsillar cancer. He says he continued to get high during his chemotherapy treatments, which he completed in July , according to his medical records, snorting before and after his appointments.
On the first day of every month, Ron filled a prescription for Xanax that his doctor had written to help with his anxiety. There were nearly four dozen pills left in the bottle, and, he says, on Oct. I was sick of living. I got tired of putting my shoes on. I got tired of reaching for my syringe. In his wallet, he carried a weathered scrap of paper on which he had scrawled his own obituary.
He left the date of his death blank. Like many recovery and rehabilitation facilities, Turning Point, an Addiction Campuses facility, relies on a combination of medications and behavior therapy to help people overcome their addiction. Unlike methadone, which is also used to treat opioid addiction, physicians can prescribe it without the need for a rigid clinical program for monitoring the recovering addict.
But when the elevator doors opened in the lobby, he saw that the center was coed. However shallow his reason for staying, Ron did. One day turned into two, and eventually he completed the day program. The therapy included learning skills to help him and his fellow addicts divert their urge to act out of emotion, which often le to reckless and compulsive behavior like drug use that ends up with their harming themselves or others, and instead to adopt skills to control and turn those emotions and urges into positive reactions rather than negative ones.
After a few weeks in jail, Carla was released and called Paris, looking for Ron. Because they had used together, the center thought they needed to recover separately. Undoing decades of addiction is an ongoing process. For the first few weeks at the center, Ron was telling the counselors what he thought they wanted to hear. Relapse rates are high—addiction doctors say nearly every addict who enters treatment can expect to relapse.Videos of heroin use
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