This month in Central Georgia, authorities say approximately 10 people have overdosed on little yellow pills containing a mixture of synthetic opioids.
The prevalence of the pills and the number of people using them begs the question, "Are there enough local treatment options for those who need help?"
Gabrielle Dawkins sat down with a once-battling heroin addict to get more information on how she was able to kick that habit.
“I was a heroin addict,” says Howard.
It's a battle 29-year-old Jennifer Howard says she's fought for more than half her life.
“I have been struggling with addiction for 15 years, so I was 14 when I started,” says Howard.
She says she's overdosed more than 10 times and sought help through many detox programs and 12-step meetings.
“It's just a absolute obsessive need to always have it. If you're running out, you're thinking about how you're going to get the next one. It's just a neverending vicious circle. It never ends,” says Howard.
She says those treatments didn't work for her and her habit has hurt those closest to her -- family.
But three months ago, having a family of her own changed everything.
Her son, Caleb, prompted her to seek help at HealthQwest, a Macon opioid-treatment clinic.
“It's crazy to me because I wake up now and my whole desire to go use is all gone. It's all gone,” says Howard.
HealthQwest CEO, Pamela Marfell, says most patients are very sick, and quitting cold turkey is harder than you might think.
“I describe it like the flu times 100, so there's a lot of diarrhea, throwing up, sweating, nausea that goes along with withdrawing from an opioid,” says Marfell.
HealthQwest offers outpatient treatment and is regulated by several state and federal agencies including the DEA.
They have a full medical staff including doctors and a pharmacist. They administer three medications to ease the withdrawal Suboxone, Methadone and Buprenorphine. However, they don't expect the patient to stay on the drug forever.
“We do have a slow weaning process and it's recommended that you decrease a patient 5 mg every two weeks,” says Marfell.
Marfell says opioid addiction is a growing dilemma.
“You see the superstars overdosing on different medications. The heroin epidemic is getting huge. You see a lot of oxies and roxies here in middle Georgia. We see heroin now coming down 75,” says Marfell.
According to the National Institutes of Health, in 2014, 2.5 million Americans suffered from opioid use disorders which caused 28,000 overdose deaths.
That would be like the entire population of Jones County disappearing.
River's Edge Behavioral Health in Macon also works to help addicts kick their habits.
And Chief Executive Officer, Shannon Terrell Gordon, says several treatment options are available in Central Georgia from drug treatments like HealthQwest to cold turkey.
“One is known as medication assistant treatment and there are either methadone clinics or Suboxone providers and then there is abstinence-based treatment as well,” says Gordon.
But Gordon says the problem is cost. According to the Addiction Center, inpatient treatment can cost around $6,000 for a 30-day program.
“If you can't pay, you can't get, so it's like, 'I can see it through the window, but I can't access it,'” says Gordon.
Howard says medication assisted treatment was the best option for her.
“There's so many different opinions about this and if people who had those negative thoughts about it. If they would have just known this before now. You would not recognize me as a person,” says Gordon.
Giving opioid addicts, like Howard, a second chance at life.
“My whole life has been changed. They gave me my life back,” says Howard.
For a full list of places on recovery options, click here.
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