Karah Walters had to die before she was ready to fight for her life.
Nothing leading up to that point had proven strong enough to motivate her to break her heroin addiction. Not the loss of her job. Or her friends. Or even her family.
Two years ago, a relapse turned into an overdose, and she stopped breathing until Narcan — a medication used to block the effects of narcotics — brought her back.
“I don’t remember much about dying,” Walters said. “I just remember when I woke up thinking something had to change.”
She isn’t alone. Nueces County has one of the highest overdose death rates in Texas at 10.4 per 100,000 people.
In the past couple of years, opioids like heroin have become the dominant drug treated at rehab centers like Charlie’s Place.
Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, is quickly becoming the most dangerous drug in America. Here are the basics.
Brett Kelman, The Tennessean
Corpus Christi police and emergency medical services personnel respond to hundreds of overdose calls a year.
More: What you need to know about the opioid epidemic
Who is most vulnerable to opioid addiction?
For Walters, 31, what some would call an average life was something of a fantasy.
From the start, Walters was challenged. She said both her parents were addicts. Her father was in and out of jail, and her mother worked three jobs to support her seven kids. Being the oldest, the weight of making sure her siblings lived daily life fell on Walters.
“I didn’t have a childhood, that’s for sure,” Walters said. “I’d have seizures from child stress it was so bad.”
To cope with the stress of her daily life, Walters turned to what she knew. She started out smoking marijuana when she was under the age of 10, also using the pain medication Lortab and drinking alcohol.
“I started using (drugs) when I was about nine,” Walters said. “By the time I was in seventh grade, it was daily.”
For Walters, it was normal. People tend to learn from those around them, and those around her used drugs to deal with their problems.
“My mom was abused sexually, physically, mentally and emotionally. She used drugs to cope. It was a big part of my life growing up,” Walters said. “She used drugs to deal with her problems. I thought it was normal.”
The normalization in childhood is what leads many down a path of addiction later. People are 50 percent more likely to become addicted if an immediate family member is addicted, according to addictionsandrecovery.org.
As time went on, so did the drug use, which she managed until she met heroin — her drug of choice — because “it numbed the pain.”
Soon, she followed her parents and delved into a war with herself.
“It’s hard to watch your daughter go through the thing that nearly ruined my life,” Troy Walters, her father, said. “But addiction is a beast like no other.”
“Nothing gets in the way of getting that next high when you need it,” her stepmother Tiffany Walters said. “I lost my kid and went to jail, but it didn’t matter.”
Drug use commonly intertwines with other mental illnesses like depression and anxiety.
Walters said she was abused for many years and the emotional pain was too much. She turned to drugs to cope.
“No one understood that pain and I didn’t know how to handle it,” she said. “After a point, there wasn’t any more highs — just pain. A lot of pain.”
Quitting sounds easy — “All you have to do is stop using,” some would say — but that doesn’t mean the drugs quit a person.
Walters went through unimaginable pain, like losing her children, before her last overdose stopped her heart.
After she was revived, she knew things had to change. Her heroin use had to stop or the next time she wouldn’t be so lucky.
WHY OPIOID OVERDOSES ARE HARD TO TRACK
Before a problem can be fixed it has to be identified.
In Corpus Christi, the true scope of the opioid problem is unknown.
Noe Rodriguez, public information officer for the Corpus Christi-Nueces County Public Health District, said that they do not have the number of overdoses in the city.
“We do not carry the number of overdoses here,” Rodriguez said. “We use the state database and reported deaths go through that way.”
The Coastal Bend Wellness Foundation offers overdose prevention kits to save the life of someone going through an opioid overdose.
Mark Young, Corpus Christi Caller Times
Jane Maxwell says that the system used to classify overdose deaths needs to be reformed.
“The system we use to classify overdose deaths does not work,” Maxwell said. “We don’t know what is really going on.”
The Nueces County Medical Examiner’s office did not return numerous calls to comment on how they classify overdose deaths.
“Corpus has a massive heroin problem,” Troy Walters, a drug counselor for South Texas Substance Abuse Recovery Services for five years, said. “It has been on the rise especially with younger people who also use pills like benzos (Xanax).”
Wade Fjeld, the executive director of the Palmer Drug Abuse Program, said he believes “there are probably around 1,000 overdose deaths a year in Corpus. I can count more than 50 right now.”
“From a public health standpoint, I don’t think we are doing enough to abstract Death Certificates and identifying these public health problems,” Mary Dale Peterson, CEO of Driscoll’s Children Hospital said. “Until you can define the problem, you don’t know how to fix it.”
Without proper data, a real solution can’t be found and proper funding for the problem can’t be given out.
WHAT’S BEING DONE
While heroin can have devastating effects on a person’s life, it reaches all parts of life, especially when it comes to law enforcement.
“Heroin (is) consistently, since I’ve been here, one of the most prevalent drugs in Corpus Christi,” said Police Cmdr. Todd Green, the head of the narcotics and vice division.
Since May of this year, all CCPD officers have begun to carry doses of Narcan for possible overdose encounters.
Law enforcement agencies still try and slow the heroin trade within Corpus Christi.
In August, the Caller-Times accompanied 13 law enforcement agencies, including the Drug Enforcement Administration, in a coordinated warrant round-up focused on heroin dealers.
Green says their primary focus in recent years has been to curb the use of synthetic marijuana, which has spiked, but the department continues to monitor all drug trends.
“We have discretion and we have something called procedural justice where we try to do the right thing, but the bottom line is we enforce the law. It’s what we do,” said John Hooper, who at the time of speaking as a lieutenant with CCPD. He is now the sheriff of Nueces County.
Police officers have begun carrying Narcan since earlier this year.
And getting help isn’t always easy.
“Only 7 percent of people who need addiction treatment will get it,” said Debbie Townzen, the admissions manager for Charlie’s Place. “That means that only seven out of one hundred people who need help will get it.”
Charlie’s Place’s waiting list is usually around 20 days for people to get into a program, which allows for people to change their minds.
“Addicts are very unpredictable people,” Troy Walters said. “One day they could be at rock bottom and try to get help, then the next day be right back on the streets.”
But more funding means more services, which could save lives.
President Donald Trump signed a bill to tackle America’s opioid epidemic in October and more legislation has been announced.
A database that will track a person’s prescriptions will soon be used nationwide, which will severely cut down on addicts “doctor-shopping” and going from doctor to doctor getting prescriptions.
Systematic changes are also on the way with how opioids are prescribed. One of the changes suggested is to limit the number of pills given out from the average 30 days to around seven days.
This would cut down on the amount of future opioid addicts, but it would almost instantly cut off the supply from current addicts.
“If you cut off the supply, I’d say about one-third of those (addicted to opioids) would turn to heroin,” Wade Fjeld said.
The opioid epidemic in Texas hasn’t reached the levels that are seen in the northeast. However, the problems are still here and they aren’t going away.
Karah Walters is enjoying her life of sobriety with her two kids. She plans on getting her GED soon and wants to work in recovery to help people like her.
“(Addicts) aren’t bad people,” Walters said. “We just don’t have the coping mechanisms and support that others have.”
More: Amid an increasing drug problem, the Coastal Bend Wellness Foundation looks for solutions
More: Questionable opioid prescriptions cost South Texas doctor his license
More: What you need to know about the opioid epidemic
Source link Weight Loss Without Pills