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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 700,000 people died from a drug overdose between 1999 and 2017. Around 68% of the deaths in 2017 involved and opioid.
The opioid epidemic has touched every community across the United States, and has affected countless families. As a nation, we are struggling to combat the insidious disease of addiction, and with each new report, the epidemic feels yet more difficult—even impossible—to overcome.
In the midst of this struggle, we look for stories of hope.
One of those stories came from a place (literally) called Hope—the town in Indiana where 28-year-old recovering addict Erika Hurt is from. In 2016, Hurt experienced her lowest point, when local police released a photo of her overdosing on heroin—with her young son in the backseat.
The photo was released to spread awareness of the opioid epidemic and its effect on families, according to local police. At the time, Hurt was revived with Narcan—the opioid overdose reversal spray that has saved thousands of lives. Immediately afterward, Hurt left for an intense rehabilitation program, where she stayed for six months.
Hurt told Good Morning America that she began abusing pain pills at age 15—a story that is all too common among young Americans. The number is so high, in fact, that in 2016 nearly four percent of adolescents aged 12-17 reported misusing opioids over the past year. That number nearly doubled in the case of teens and young adults aged 18-25.
This critical period of development in a young person’s life comes with many challenges, whether social or emotional. As reported by SAMHSA, all adolescents are at risk for opioid misuse, making it extremely important for parents to be aware, for schools to provide proper education, and for that education to begin as early as possible.
As in Hurt’s case, prescription drug abuse can play a significant role in subsequent usage of heroin. The National Institute on Drug Abuse states that heroin initiation was 19 times higher among those who reported prior nonmedical pain reliever use than those who did not. Further still, 75 percent of people reported that their first opioid was a prescription drug.
For young adults who are struggling with opioid addiction, addiction treatment and cycles of relapse can pave a difficult path to sobriety. Treatment should be personalized to the individual, and treatment programs geared toward younger adults can be effective.
For Erika Hurt, the path has not been easy, though she wants to share her story in order to help others who may be facing a similar battle. Hurt has now been sober for three years, and is going viral for a different reason this time. She has shared photos of herself and her son—happy and healthy—celebrating how far she has come.
In one of the photos, Hurt proudly bears a sign that says, “Narcan saved my life.” Her son sits beside her, with a sign that says, “And now I get to have my mommy.”
Due to the actions of first responders, Hurt was given a second chance at life, and is taking full advantage of the chance she has been given.
Hurt recently reconnected with the police officer, Matthew Tallent, who released the overdose photo.
He was delighted to hear that Hurt had remained sober, stating that, “I’m so happy that Erika has continued her sobriety and has her wonderful little boy who is growing up. To see her in that light, as a doting mother, is just a great thing and I’m happy that she stayed sober.”
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