Opioid Epidemic: Could it happen to you?
YAKIMA COUNTY, Wash.- For some people, all it takes is one prescription to lead them into a long term addiction.
It happened to Chad Morris, a former teacher who needed medication for his back pain. He says doctors would over-prescribe him high amounts Vicodin each month, knowing he had never taken such strong pain medication before.
The subjects highlighted in this story have jobs, families, and lived a life probably similar to yours, and none of them ever thought they would reach such a low point in their lives just by taking pain medication.
Over at the Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic, Aaron Anderson is a part of their Opioid Oversight Committee and monitors how the clinic is handling opioid prescription regulations. He says a big contributor to the opioid epidemic stems from years ago when doctors were giving high doses to patients longer term after things like surgery.
"We can see the statistics around the country that its a major issue. A lot of this had to do with prescribing practices in the 90s and early 2000s. We want quick fixes, taking a medication that gives you immediate relief seems like a good plan, however if that's done in a not ideal way it can lead to a lot of problems down the road," said Anderson.
Like Morris, each of the men in this story all thought taking these prescriptions would just relieve them from their pain, until they realized their problem was much bigger than their recovery.
"I just didn't get the sense that there was any real plan for kind of weening me off, it was just 'here I'll give you more, I'll give your more'," said Morris.
"During the time that I'm taking this, I don't think I'm getting addicted but I'm liking it, I'm feeling pretty good and of course I like it too much," said Owner of Apple Valley Counseling Services Bill Ellis.
Bill Ellis owns a local drug rehab center and says now the shift of how medical experts regulate pills has made a complete 180, but the change he says, has still created just as many addicts.
"We go from one extreme to the next. First it was all to the left, like pills to everybody. Now it's like to the right where its like 'we don't want to give you pills because we are afraid we are going to get you addicted'," said Ellis.
All three of these men spiraled into deeper hole with their addiction, and then the supply feeding their addiction came to a halt.
"My back stopped hurting, and my pain pills were abruptly cut off," said Morris.
But the craving was still there, and with feeding any addiction, many will doing anything to get their high even if that means hurting the ones you love most.
"The family probably takes the most brunt of the addiction, and I feel sad for that, but also in the same breath is I did something about my problem. We need to not freak out over it. We need to deal with it and come back to the middle and that's what has happened is we've gone all the way to the right now," said Ellis.