prescription addiction: small towns not immune to rising opioid epidemic, Part 4

By Jacki Wood, written for the Nodaway News Leader, March 2016

Editor’s note: this is the last part in the series; the names have been changed to protect their privacy.

Nine days after law enforcement officers and Family Services visited Bethany’s home and issued a stern warning to her step-father about getting help, her family moved halfway across the country.

A new state, larger city and several hospitals to frequent, her step-father’s drug abuse only worsened.

Soon thereafter, Bethany was sent to live with her grandparents where it would be “safer for her to stay.”
“That was the healthiest and best thing that ever happened in my childhood,” she said.

***

For the 2016 legislative session, Missouri State Senator Holly Rehder proposed HB 1892, a prescription drug monitoring program, after similar bills she had proposed the last couple of years failed.

During a Senate Special Committee Meeting to highlight the opioid epidemic in January, Rehder told the personal story of her daughter’s drug addiction which began with prescription painkillers.

“I tell you this story to show that drug addiction is no respecter of persons,” she said. “It crosses all socioeconomic statuses. When you go into a high school and ask the kids, ‘what do you want to be when you grow up?’ The answers are ‘a doctor,’ ‘a lawyer,’ ‘a business owner.’ None say, ‘I want to be an addict.’

“Yet addiction is the growing epidemic of our time.”

***

After Adrianna’s mom moved out and she cut ties with her, the effects of her mom’s prescription drug abuse continued to plague her.

“I struggled with depression,” she said. “My attitude toward everything became negative. And I still have trust and confidence issues.”

The one person that was supposed to teach her how to love and be loved was gone, she said.

***

In 2014, Missouri State Representative Steve Lynch helped pass legislation that allowed qualified first responders to use Naloxone, an antidote for heroin overdoses.

Lynch has filed three bills this legislative session to continue to fight opioid overdoses.

HB 1568 would allow pharmacists to dispense Naloxone to individuals.

“Massachusetts passed a similar law and saw opiate-related deaths cut nearly in half as a result,” Lynch said. “We have the opportunity to put a safe, non-addictive drug in the hands of folks who can use it to save lives.”

HB 1569 would provide immunity to those who seek medical attention for someone suffering from an overdose and HB 1570 would authorize a $5 fee for drug-related court cases to fund rehabilitation programs.

***

Emergency Department Nurse Manager Pat Giffin, RN, said SSM Health St. Francis uses Naloxone when an opioid overdose case comes to the hospital.

“The problem is getting so severe that another one of the Suggested Emergency Department Prescribing Practice Recommendations is that healthcare providers should encourage policies that allow providers to prescribe and dispense Naloxone to public health, law enforcement and families as an antidote for opioid overdoses,” she said. “We have the advantage of also having a physician who is specially trained so he can prescribe Suboxone to help those with addictions get off the opioids.”

Suboxone contains Naloxone as well as buprenorphine, a controlled substance to treat pain and addiction to narcotic pain relievers.

Another option for those dealing with opioid addiction is Methadone, a pain reliever used as part of drug addiction detox and maintenance. It is only available from certified pharmacies and there are several Methadone clinics across the state.

***

It’s been a year now since Adrianna’s mom moved out.

“I have been growing up on my own, teaching myself how to be an adult and I have missed out on so many things that I would have done with her,” she said. “She will never get this time back with me.”

Looking back, Adrianna is still struggling with how to deal with it all.

“My mom became a prescription drug abuser,” she said. “And it tore my family and my life apart.”

***

But there is hope.

Bethany has been there. She understands, at least to some extent, what Adrianna is going through.

“In all the books I have read over the years, for my own healing or to make sure my children never experience anything like I did, one thing stood out to me,” she said.

“A child who has at least one adult in their life – it only has to be one – who they have bonded with and who believes in them and adores them, they absolutely can heal and have a ‘normal’ life with healthy relationships.

“My advice would be to embrace that adult – that aunt, grandmother, teacher, coach or pastor who embraces them for who they are – and try to make a strong connection with them.”

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