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Addicts Share How They Got Addicted To Opioids

Stories of opioid addicts on FRONTLINE

In Their Own Words

FRONTLINE logoFrontline, producer of countless documentaries, asked their viewers to share with them their own stories of addiction to opioids.  The results offer an unvarnished and raw look into what opioid and opiate addicts go through.  How they got addicted, and how they turned their lives around, and unfortunately how some are still tangled in drug addiction.

We’ve collected some of those responses here and hope they will act as a warning to some, and an inspiration to others.

Stories of opioid addicts on FRONTLINE
Stories of opioid addicts on FRONTLINE

How I Got Addicted to Opioids

Emily from Rochester

It doesn’t always begin with a conscious choice to become a junkie, and it certain isn’t just a poor, under-privileged minority problem. I was raised in a white, middle- to upper- class suburb and am well-educated with a masters degree and my opiate addiction began with prescriptions from my doctor who one day decided to stop writing the prescriptions without any instruction or attempts to wean me off even though I had been taking opiates for years. Physically dependent, I had no choice but to either be sick or self-medicate.

Already in pain from the fibromyalgia and arthritis that had been the reason I was taking the pills to begin with, I was not going to suffer through a withdrawal so bad that I thought I was dying as well. So I bought pills on the streets. When it got too expensive to keep buying pills and with supplies not always being consistent, I turned to heroin. I am a perfect example of how addiction does not discriminate.

K.M. who started off using opioids for pain

For opioids, the entry is to manage real pain. For me, a near fatal bicycle wreck broke my back and every bone in my skull. Thus, real pain results from real trauma. Enter painkillers. Enter dependence to not only chase away the pain, but to invite the velvet, where for a moment, there is no more fear, no more anger at the injury, only the velvet lie of a fleeting potion that over time, steals more than it heals.

And then you are back to the beginning, what to do about the pain?

Someone from Toledo, Ohio who has overcome addiction

You can become addicted to prescription opioids and not even realize you have a problem, till it’s too late. In the haze of the high and loved ones saying they’re worried about you, you lie to yourself and them and say you need the pills, that the doctor wouldn’t give you something that would hurt you, that you need them or the pain will be unbearable. So you pull away from everyone so they don’t see you high. Not realizing you are not just taking the medicine for pain — you now need it daily to just to get out of bed. Without it, you’re physically sick. Your whole body hurts, and you know the answer to fix it all is the opioids.

I stopped using, I got help and got to see there is still life left to live. My younger brother passed in December 2014 from a combined drug intoxication and heroin was one of the drugs that helped take his life along with prescription drugs. He lost his battle but I am fighting it in his name to try and help bring this front and center, and let people know there is help out there, there is life after all this. They have to want to get clean, more than they want to get high.

Brittney who has been sober since 2014

This opioid addiction is terrifying to an outsider looking in, but as a user it seems natural and normal. People don’t wish to be this… it seems to just happen. No one grows up saying, “When I grow up I want to be a drug addict.” I’ve been on both sides of the fence. I’m a person in long term recovery. …It means I haven’t had a drink or drug since February 23, 2014.

I was that hopeless broken girl, the girl with no purpose, no goals, no values. I felt as though I didn’t matter, I didn’t have a voice, and I would just die a “junkie.” I hated myself and thought “people would be better without me.” I had goals and dreams, I had a great family and friends, I had the world at my hands and I traded it first for a pill that later turned into a needle. The needle took me to a whole new world of addiction. It took my morals and values away. It took my family and friends; it took my education, my purpose. Lastly, it took me.

Heroin changed me into this “other” person. When looking in the mirror I didn’t recognize my reflection, I no longer was the girl I knew. …At the end my family was done, they couldn’t take it any longer. I got an ultimatum get sober or get out. I always thought they hated me but I was wrong. I decided I couldn’t live as an active user any longer. I’ve changed my life around. I work in the field of addiction and I’m a student… taking classes for my drug and alcohol license. I work in a recovery home for women. I see how powerful this disease really is from a different perspective and it’s scary. I had so many great accomplishments in a short amount of time. I’ve rebuilt important relationships that I broke. I worked really hard to get to this point in my life.

Advice? Never lose hope in a person with substance abuse disorder.

The best part of my job is seeing that broken lost girl find her voice and purpose in life just as I did. Seeing the light come back into a girl’s face and seeing her shine. I think because there are so many unsuccessful and sad stories out there we miss the successful stories. The stories with hope attached to them. The stories where mothers and children are being reunited, the stories where women are standing on their own two feet and working towards goals and achieving them, the stories where that broke lost girl finds her way and makes it. These are the stories of hope, if you look hard enough they’re on every corner… Advice? Never lose hope in a person with substance abuse disorder.

There is Hope For Opioid and Opiate Addicts

What we can learn from these folks is there is always hope.  No one is doomed, no matter how bad their addiction has become.  If you’re struggling with opioid addiction or abuse, reach out for help.  Most every community has organizations dedicated to helping those with addiction problems.  And our National Opiate Hotline is here 24/7 staffed by people who can provide guidance and help you determine treatment options and opportunities.  1-888-784-6641

Learn more: Opiate Hotline Heroin Facts

And our report on The Difference Between Opioids and Opiates

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Drug overdose deaths in the United States continue to increase

Heroin overdose statistics

Opioids, opiates and heroin continue to dominate the cause of overdose deaths in the USA.  The CDC (Center for Disease Control) report that 91 Americans die each day from opioid (including heroin and prescription drugs).  They recently also noted:

  • The percentage increase of drug overdose deaths among adults aged 55-64 rose from 4.2 per 100,000 in 1999 to 21.8 in 2015.

  • In 2015, adults aged 45-54 had the highest death rate from drug overdose at 30 deaths per 100,000.


Deaths from opiate and drug overdose graphic
Deaths from opiate and drug overdose

The lack of treatment opportunities is a leading cause.  Michael Botticelli, the former White House Director of National Drug Control Policy, recently said, “The prescription opioid and heroin epidemic continues to devastate communities and families across the country…in large part because too many people still do not get effective substance use disorder treatment.”

The lack of treatment options and uncertainty about health  coverage keeps many addicts from seeking treatment and recovery.  Sadly, many addicts come to view themselves as being hopeless and beyond redemption.

Opiate Hotline knows addicts can get clean and sober and turn their lives around.  We hope our government does more to help the addict and the stigma of seeking help will be lifted.

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Heroin in America – a history of opiate and opioid abuse

Heroin addiction takes lives
Heroin addiction takes lives
Heroin addiction takes lives

This brief ABC News video documents the history of heroin use in the united states as well as some staggering statistics.  Clearly we have never seen the level of heroin and other opiate/opioid overdoses and deaths and even number of addicts that we see today.  Our country is facing an opiate crisis for which we have never seen.  The need for addiction treatment has never been more pressing.   In spite of the gravity of the problem, there is hope for every addict.  No one is hopeless.

Heroin and opioid addicts can and do recover

Heroin addicts, opioid addicts and prescription drug addicts can and do recover from their addictions. No one is hopeless, but it takes a genuine desire to change your life, and a willingness to be uncomfortable as you enter treatment and recovery to start a new way of life.  But first you have to ask for help.

If you or a loved one are tangled in a web of opiate addiction call and talk to a treatment professional now.  We’re here 24/7.  The call is free and confidential. Call Now 1-888-784-6641