Wiregrass people fight the Opioid addiction

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Dothan, Al. (WTVY) - It kills more than car wrecks. We're talking about opioids and statistics show Alabama ranks at the very top for the highest number of painkiller prescriptions.

In 2017, there were almost 400 opioid related deaths in Alabama. Six of those in Houston County. Officials say that number is likely much higher than reported.

Larry Kirkland is a physician who has treated hundreds of patients for drug addiction including opioids.

"Heroin, Percocet, tire locks, Lortab, Fentanyl, all examples of Opioids," said Kirkland

Kirkland knows what it’s like to look death in the eyes.

"There was a time in my life that I was heavily addicted to alcohol and one other substance," said Kirkland.

He was hungry for a solution.

"I promised God if he would get me sober, I would spend the rest of my life helping other people get sober," said Kirkland.

Kirkland runs the Herring House, a long term residential program.

"We see them in early addiction, and we see them in later stages of the disease after losing everything," said Kirkland.

"80 or 90% of all our clients are in drug court in one of the counties, most of them in north Alabama," said Kirkland.

And a large percentage come here for treatment .

"Opioid crisis has taken up a greater better percentage of our total number of patients admitted, about half of all admissions we do now"

He says the response to the opioid crisis is good in the Wiregrass

"I feel good about treatment of opioid crisis in this area because the awareness in this area is high.”

Amy Miller knows personally hope is out there.

"We are surrounded in a very large recovery community. And there are resources available. All it takes is a simple face to face assessment with someone that can get the ball rolling," said Amy Miller, Office Manager.

But even with hope, counselors know there's a life on the line.

"Opioid addiction is not treated that can end in death so i think the desire to prevent those negative outcomes is probably my biggest motivator," Donda Goodson, Counselor.

The CDC reports more than 28 thousand overdose opioid related deaths in 2017. The CDC says the reports do not show data from the state because they did not meet the data requirement.

One of the problems in keeping track of the exact number of cases - death certificates do not have specific drug information noted therefore there's underreported opioid related deaths.