Friday, August 31 is International Overdose Awareness Day. Over 70 thousand people died from drug overdose in 2017, and that number continues to rise, according to the Butte County Public Health Department.
Action News Now reporter Stephanie Lin spoke with a recovering drug user and the county on how the community can help ease the pain caused by this troubling, and complex, epidemic.
Johnny Adams recounts his experience of getting high.
"I looked over to my right and there was a father and his son was looking at me. The father grabbed his son's face, so his son would not see me."
It took the bewildered glance of a boy to change a man hooked on drugs.
"I'm sick and tired of living on the street, there has to be something better out there," Adams tells us.
37-year-old Adams started using at the tender age of 13 when friends in the neighborhood introduced him to pills. Things escalated from there.
"I built a tolerance like anyone else," he says, "from one to six a day, to ten to thirty a day.
Dr. Andy Miller of the Butte County Public Health Department spoke to us about the addictive qualities of opioids.
"You will not feel well when you don't have them. Drug users are often not chasing a high, they are simply trying hard not to feel sick."
The doctor says that opioid prescribing guidelines are now enforced by clinicians countywide on a volunteer basis. That's helped lower the number of written prescriptions. But the number of opioid-related deaths continues to rise, and that's where Naloxone comes in.
Naloxone, Dr. Miller says, can help save a life in the event of an overdose.
Oftentimes, we're told, victims of drug addiction are unable to seek help themselves. That's where family, friends, and even bystanders can step in, to save a life.
"We're trying to get naloxone out," Dr. Miller says, "behavioral health gives free kits."
There's also help for those trying to get out of addiction.
"We suggest medical assisted therapy. Those are things that keep you at a steady state, without going to withdrawal," says Dr. Miller.
"Don't give up on your family, your friends, just because they are on drugs," Adams says.
Today, Adams is drug-free and works maintenance at the Elijah house, a rehab center that helped him on his road to recovery.
"It's so much better. People respect me again, people don't try to walk away."
He will be two years sober in October.
"I hope that the message gets out there," he says, "you don't have to use anymore, coming from someone who has overdosed."
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