The American nightmare began with casually prescribed painkillers. The worst drug crisis in history is underway. Five Americans tell Ilta-Sanom about their struggles with addiction.
Clarksburg, West Virginia, United States
West Virginia is the state most affected by the drug crisis in the United States. It has the highest number of overdose deaths relative to the population.
The drug crisis began in the 1990s with opioid painkillers. After that heroin, fentanyl and methamphetamine took over the market.
Patients at the Christian Mission Rehabilitation Clinic in the small town of Clarksburg talk about their struggles with substance abuse problems.
Samantha, 32: My mom almost killed me twice
“I grew up in a violent home. My mother abused me often, she came close to hitting me twice. My father left us when I was 4 years old.
Maybe because I didn’t have a father figure, when I was 15 I started dating a 29 year old man. He showed me an interest in burning alcohol and clouds. I felt so bad then, I was actually suicidal. I cut myself. We were together for seven years.
When I was 16 I was put on pain medication because I was in a car accident that was my mother’s fault. I became addicted to opioid painkillers. I also started taking benzos. This is not a good combination.
In 2012 I met the father of my child. He introduced me to cocaine. I used cocaine, crack and alcohol for ten years. My biggest problem was alcohol. It seemed to give me the confidence I needed at that time.
Because of our drug problem, we had to sell our apartment, our boat, our car, everything. I started borrowing money from my mother. I claimed I needed it for the kids, but I used it for drugs. I started using heroin and methamphetamine.
I’ve only been in trouble with the law twice. 2018 I was in over my head and really angry, and for some reason I threw my hand out the window. I had to close for the night.
Last September, I got stuck again. That’s where I came to know about rehab and this place.
I reconnected with God. I am trying to walk on the right path. I live one day at a time.”
Tyler, 42: Methamphetamine basically burns a hole in your brain
“When I was a teenager, we used to party just to have fun. I drank, smoked weed, took Xanax every now and then.
I had a child at the age of 19. I wondered why the father of the child remains conscious all the time. He was taking the opioid pain reliever OxyContin. He gave me one of these and I’ve used it every day since then. If you don’t get the daily dose, it will be very painful.
When opioids weren’t available on prescription, we had to switch to heroin. We traveled to Pittsburgh to get the heroin. From then everything went to hell.
We started using whatever we could get our hands on. I used so much methamphetamine that I often lost my memory. Methamphetamine basically burns a hole in your brain.
Here in Clarksburg, at the rehabilitation clinic, I’m in my hometown, with people who understand what I’m going through.”
Patrick: I just wanted to kill myself with drugs
“My father left us when I was 8 years old. It was difficult for me. My mother took good care of us and taught us the rules of good living. Was financially tight.
The first time I tried drugs, when I was 9, I smoked a little cloud. I started having problems when I was 13 years old. At the age of 14, I ended up in a youth prison for two years. I left there with a high school diploma and thought I’d be fine.
Only half a year passed when I used methamphetamine, crack, heroin, pills. I’ve been to jail many times since I grew up.
Due to the use of drugs, I started stealing. I committed theft and dacoity. I spent most of my twenties in jail.
My mother passed away two years ago. At that point, I didn’t care about anything anymore. I just wanted to kill myself with drugs.
I got parole for robbery and now I am in rehabilitation for a long time. I am fine now. I’m trying to make a living piece by piece.”
Joy, 37: I was born addicted to opioids
“My mother and father were addicted to opioid painkillers. I was born addicted to them. The normal everyday life of my childhood was when my parents had pills. What was unusual was when they didn’t have them.
In the 1990s, there was not as much heroin or methamphetamine available in West Virginia. My parents did everything they could to get prescription pills from doctors.
I had three siblings. My younger brother is serving life sentence. My older sister was stuck, but she’s doing better now. My little sister took drugs, I haven’t talked to her in five years.
In 2008, my father died of a heart attack due to an overdose. After that my family fell apart.
In November of the same year my son was born. It was the best thing that ever happened to me. I was 19 and trying to work. I smoked a cloud with my wife.
We wanted to stay away from painkillers because we had seen what they do. My wife was prescribed opioids. I was hooked too. While we spent hundreds of dollars on opioids, these pills only lasted a few days.
I started stealing. It changed my moral code. I don’t steal from humans, but for some reason it was okay for me to steal from a store. I got caught and went to jail. I am on parole now.
I divorced my wife about five years ago. For two years I was completely confused. I don’t even know where the time has gone.
I never want to go back to that life again. I can’t even talk about that time. I put myself through real hell.
I came here after being released from jail. I’ve been dry for 11 months, the longest I’ve ever been in my life.
I know that I have a greater purpose in life. I want to be the father of my child again.”
Louis: I’ve been an addict my whole life
“I started using drugs at age 9. I was smoking high and taking pills, just whatever I could get my hands on. I went to rehab for the first time when I was 13. It was years old.
I started using hard drugs. I’ve been an addict my whole life and I’ve lost everything I ever had. I want to get rid of drug addiction. I know I was on the wrong track.
When I heard that there was a vacancy here, I immediately came. I have been here for 60 days. I would like to find an apartment when I leave here.