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My two youngest were so close to her. Family was her life. She was just a light to everybody she met. She always knew she could count on my husband and I to be there for her, especially in her darkest hours. She wanted to be a plastic surgeon, and she got her diploma at 16 and started community college at She made people laugh, and she never hesitated to say how she felt. Not everyone liked what she said, but they respected her for it.

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She got baptized, she believed in God. She was the youngest in there, and would take care of everybody. She never had any of her own.

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But she always wanted to be a teacher or a pediatrician. She had a heart of gold. She was a hard worker—and actually worked the day she overdosed. During her sobriety, she was very open about helping people understand what addiction feels like. When she died, my family felt like we needed to continue what she started—and we keep sharing her story. She would have wanted that. The fatalities have been tripling, quadrupling, quintupling with such speed that as of this year, for the first time ever, drug overdose is the leading cause of death for Americans under age But according to the latest research out of Columbia University, heroin-related deaths have also jumped in nonwhite populations, tripling between and and contributing to the nationwide catastrophe.

Worse, experts say the opioid problem is entering an even more terrifying new phase. A wave of deadly synthetic opioids—like the fentanyl that Chayce took—have started flooding the market. From to , fatalities from these synthetics alone skyrocketed 72 percent, and last year, according to provisional data, they more than doubled. So how did we get to this point? A little history: In the mids OxyContin the generic is oxycodone hit the market and was aggressively promoted by its maker, the Purdue Frederick Company, as a breakthrough—a safer, less-addictive way to treat everything from postsurgical pain to chronic back problems.

As pills flew off the shelves, doctors also began recommending other opioids like Vicodin, Percocet, and Norco more liberally. By the number of fatal overdoses from oxycodone had jumped over percent. And then the story took a turn: As doctors started to realize how habit-forming the drugs were and slowed their prescribing, and as Purdue replaced OxyContin with a harder-to-crush version in , addicts scrambled for other sources of the drugs. And just as that was happening, a new supply of heroin showed up like a bad uncle with catastrophic timing—cheaper, stronger, and easier to get than ever before.

Many users made the switch. Eighty percent of heroin users today first became addicted to prescription opioids.

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She took the first pill as directed. She was It was such a miserable life. But at some point she started to become a leader. That was 13 years ago, but today there are still many Kerianns taking their first painkiller. Clearly for people with debilitating pain, these medications keep life bearable.

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But physicians need to prescribe opioids much more carefully, and whenever they do, they should evaluate for mental health issues that can make patients vulnerable to addiction, says Hilary Connery, M. Parents overdosing with toddlers in the car; cheerleaders memorialized after dying from heroin—the images have been relentless, and strikingly white. And many are asking: Is the fact that white Americans have become the face of this epidemic the reason President Trump declared the opioid problem a national emergency?

Recognizing that opioids are affecting all communities—and how—is key to stopping the epidemic nationwide, experts say. It changes my approach to: How do I keep you safe? Also drug use among different races is perceived differently. Lula Beatty, Ph. It may seem like P. Minority women also come under closer scrutiny from child protection agencies, who may take their children away. Latisha Goullaud, 27, will never forget the moment P. But she was so busy being that girl, she neglected her own emotions and found herself showing up for her A.

Then she discovered Percocet and started spending her days looking for painkillers instead of going to school. Eventually she took leave, moved in with a guy, and got pregnant.

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I was so overwhelmed. I really wanted to die. And she was. The memory makes her mother, Christine McMaster, now sober herself, cry. Sometimes you just have to put it away to survive, to be able to live with yourself. Determined to get her back, Goullaud went to rehab—but relapsed. It was a crushing defeat. She floundered until she found her way to Bridgewell. A month out from Bella Monte, Chayce seems to be sailing on the highs of falling in love while trying to make a life in Fresno with her new boyfriend.

I was like, Why would anyone ever want to numb this feeling? It just sucks that the cravings are back. Earth to willpower? I spoke with 20 women now in recovery, and almost every one of them told me she relapsed 10 to 20 times before getting sober. Jones, we need to try harder this time. The effect is so powerful they get addicted to the sheer act of injecting themselves.


The brain effects are why going cold turkey has dismal success rates. The good news is there are drugs to wean you off: Medication-assisted therapy MAT is widely considered to be the best treatment we have today, when used with other therapies like intensive out-patient therapy and support meetings. MAT includes buprenorphine often in a combo pill called Suboxone , a weaker opioid that when carefully administered over time can reduce relapse rates up to 80 percent, and methadone, which shows similar results.

A consistent theme in my interviews was this: Like a cancer recurrence, in which no one blames the patient, and oncologists try new therapies a second or third or fourth time, opioid-use disorder should be seen as an ongoing illness; when one treatment fails, friends and family should rally in support of the patient, and doctors should try another therapy—because eventually many do recover.

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Frustratingly, few patients and caregivers know any of this. But then Sara relapsed before eventually getting sober with methadone and intensive outpatient treatment.

And there are other barriers to getting care:. That top-of-the-class drug therapy, MAT? Less than half of all treatment facilities have a doctor on staff to prescribe it. The MAT drug methadone is available for addiction only at government--licensed clinics of which there are fewer than 1, across the country , where users must show up every day for six months to take their dose. Patients can get buprenorphine from a doctor—if they can find one specially trained and licensed to prescribe the medication. Right now there are only 39, M.

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When patients do find treatment they think will work best for them, insurance may not cover it. Providers typically have low reimbursement rates for addiction specialists, so patients must go out of network to find help. Rini first took painkillers that were prescribed for her fibromyalgia but quickly became addicted, and eventually began living out of her van while her two youngest kids stayed with her husband. Ashamed at letting her little girl down, Rini made a decision: She would shoot 11 bags of fentanyl. If she lived, she would get sober. Six months later, after another relapse and another suicide attempt, she eventually got into an intensive outpatient program she felt was the right fit—fortunately, a good one—which her provider paid for in full.

Finally, the whole field of addiction medicine is stigmatized. As a result, methadone clinics are set up separately from hospitals, and less than 15 percent of U. Thomas McLellan, Ph. Will Yakowicz is a journalist in Queens, New York. One bright spot in this epidemic has been the drug Narcan naloxone.

As Narcan clears the body of opioids, it also sends an addict into withdrawal. After being Narcanned, most patients are brought to the E. Fiellin is determined to seize.

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In a clinical trial, he gave patients buprenorphine in the E. Doing that instead of just handing a patient a list of rehab centers doubles the chance someone would be in treatment a month later. Fiellin says. For Catherine Goedicke, 23, her brother was the plan. After she overdosed on heroin during one of her many attempts to get sober, she was Narcanned and rushed to the E.

He got there as fast as he could. She wanted to keep using till the wheels fell off. As a teen, Catherine had snitched his Suboxone, the drug that eventually led her to heroin.