The Reporter Newspapers’ exclusive four-part series “Coping with a Crisis: Opioid Addiction in the Suburbs” has focused on local people dealing with a deadly drug epidemic. For many of our readers, it’s a crisis they already know all too well.
Nearly a third of the 200 residents of Reporter Newspapers communities who responded to a 1Q.com survey, which is conducted via cellphone and is not scientific, said that they or someone close to them have been addicted to opioids. And the effect has been devastating on lives and relationships.
“My cousin is a heroin addict,” a 35-year-old Atlanta woman wrote. “Seeing this bright, beautiful girl turn into a skeletal, deranged mess is what nightmares are made of. I worry for her daily and resent her parents and friends for enabling, although I know in my mind that condition is a disease that is difficult to control.”
The “Coping with a Crisis” series looked at several responses to the opioid epidemic: combatting the silence that comes with the stigma of addiction; opening new kinds of treatment facilities; throwing the book at drug-dealers; stocking a life-saving antidote in school nurses’ offices. When asked about those and other ideas — such as suing prescription opioid makers — respondents had no consensus.
The largest group, including nearly a third of the respondents, thought it would help to have more open, public discussion about opioid addiction.
The second most popular answer, chosen by a group nearly as large, called for better access to and regulation of drug-treatment centers.
In detailed replies, respondents told stories of families and hearts broken by abuse of the drugs often initially intended to ease pain.
“I had a close friend who became addicted to opioids after a bad car accident and suffering major injuries,” a 49-year-old Atlanta woman said. “It broke my heart to see him spiral downhill because [of] his addiction.”
Others said they had watched families and relationships collapse because of opioid abuse.
“My brother’s addiction ruined his relationship with his child, his siblings, his parents, and ultimately ended in his death this past October,” a 36-old Atlanta man said.
“My previous boyfriend was addicted to cocaine and heroin, which lead to the end of our relationship, since his obsession was a major problem,” a 22-year-old DeKalb County woman said. “He couldn’t function without it, and the most disappointing part was that he wasn’t willing to get help and clean himself up.”
A 58-year-old Sandy Springs woman said opioid abuse by someone close to her family “has been destructive to our family bond, created hardship in the person and our family and friends and left the loved ones with thoughts of frightening outcomes when medical surgeries or procedures require use of the addictive drug to help alleviate pain.”
And a 37-year-old Brookhaven man called his relationship with someone addicted to opioids “very scary and mentally draining. [I felt] the need to save them and constantly [was] in a state of agitation.”
“Addiction affects all those in [the addict’s] circle,” wrote a 51-year-old Atlanta woman, who said she knew someone who had been addicted. “While clean and sober now, she almost died from a heroin overdose. She missed the first three years of her son’s life.”
Here’s what some other respondents had to say:
“I am a paramedic in Atlanta and the devastation I’ve seen is indescribable. Medical marijuana would be a safer choice.”
– 28-year-old Brookhaven man
“Yes, I’ve known people [who] have been addicted. Addiction is a disease that affects everyone around them.
– 37-year-old Buckhead woman
“It’s painful to watch.”
– 43-year-old Buckhead man
“[Addiction] makes it hard to function as a family.
– 37-year-old Atlanta man
“I know of a few coworkers [who] are addicted to opioids. And to see them gradually deteriorate makes me sad for them because it affects the quality of work that they perform. Sad to say, they’re probably going to lose their jobs due to the drug addiction.”
– 41-year-old Atlanta man
“My cousin died of a heroin overdose.”
– 32-year-old Atlanta man
“A friend of mine was an addicted to opioids. His addiction affected our friendship negatively and now he is mostly out of my life.”
– 23-year-old Atlanta man
Coping with a Crisis: Opioid addiction in the suburbs
The combination of prescription painkillers, heroin and synthetic opioids is killing people around the nation, including within Reporter Newspapers communities. In this exclusive four-part series, we will look at how local families, nurses, prosecutors, recovering addicts and others are responding to a growing epidemic that already kills more people than cars, guns or breast cancer each year.
For the first story, about families using obituaries to tell the harsh truth of loved ones’ overdose deaths, click here. For the second story, about a Dunwoody man who runs treatment facilities for opioid users after surviving eight overdoses and facing prison time, click here. For a local emergency department doctor’s overview of the opioid crisis, click here. To share your thoughts and stories, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
1Q is an Atlanta-based start-up that sends questions and surveys to a cellphone via app or text messages. Respondents are paid 50 cents per answer, through PayPal, for sharing their opinions. Payments may also be donated directly to charity. Sign up to be included in our local community polls at 1Q.com/reporter or by texting “REPORTER” to 86312.