Opioid Epidemic: The Fight Towards Recovery
YAKIMA COUNTY, Wash.- The crackdown on opioids has been a major task for doctors all over the nation.
It's left people losing families, jobs, loved ones and even sometimes their life.
A doctor at Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic (YVFWC), Aaron Anderson, says there has been more regulations with opioid medication, but has it helped?
"There's been some headway in the number of prescription opioids given out, we are much more cautious with prescribing. However, things like heroin and some of the synthetic opioids that are on the black market so to speak, those have increased and are cheaper and easier to get," said Anderson.
Almost 15 percent of the U.S. population has some form of chronic pain, and doctors say because of the recent increase in drug overdoses, the overall life expectancy in the U.S. has dropped.
"From 2000 to 2015, there were some really amazing gains in terms of fewer people dying of cancer, heart disease, and so we should have seen the life expectancy go up. However, with the opioid epidemic and the number of people dying from this, we have actually seen life expectancy as a whole go down two and a half months less now," said Anderson.
A drug counselor, a former teacher, and a man in drug rehab right now all have similar stories. All were cut of their prescriptions and later moved on to stronger drugs because at that time, they say it's the only option they had. But drug recovery programs is what changed their never ending cycle.
Places like drug court here in Yakima, an 18 month drug program that the city put together in 2005 that takes in people with non-violent felony's.
"It needed to be here because we had such a need to help folks in our valley that were struggling with addiction. We were seeing a lot of crimes that were lower level or non-violent and they stemmed from drug use," said Court Financial Manager Jessica Humphreys.
It helped people like Chad Morris, a former teacher that had been prescribed pain medication for his back. After several months of consuming Vicodin, he got addicted and doctors stopped prescribing him his medication. Soon he turned to heroin, and even ended up in prison. Still at rock bottom, he had no help.
"While I was in prison there was no rehabilitation, there was no treatment, I was actually still using drugs while I was in prison," said Morris.
Out of jail, and getting into the drug scene once more, Morris got booked in the Yakima County jail. But this time, he was given opportunity to finally change his life around.
"I had been living in the drug world, so I needed to transition back from that world into the real world, and drug court offered me the opportunity to do that. They kind of bridged that gap between those two worlds," said Morris.
That can be key to many people freeing the life of an addict, and now Morris is working in the field that took a chance on him.
"I knew going into it that this was an opportunity that I had to take advantage of because if we are out using, we are either going to end up in institutions, prison, or we are going to be dead," said Morris.
Like Morris, Bill Ellis who owns his own drug counseling service and the man in rehabilitation also were given a chance to make a change, but Ellis says it's up to the person to take advantage of their life.
"Treatment isn't the cure all, the patient is the cure all, and that's the bottom line," said Ellis.