ABILENE, Texas — Opioid abuse has become an epidemic across the country, as they are highly addictive.
Many people have received a prescription for an opioid over the last year. These are drugs like Oxycontin, Percocet or Vicodin.
An Abilenian, Tiffany Knight, has personally felt the effects of an opioid addiction. She says that her love for her children may have saved her life.
" I fell out of the back of a truck, and I hurt my back," Knight stated.
Knight's struggle with back pain began when she was a child. The pain became worse when she was pregnant with for the first time. Her doctor prescribed her hydrocodone, an opioid, for the pain. Knight quickly became addicted, and when the prescription ran out, she began buying it on the street.
"At a certain point, you know, it's not what you need, but your body is physically going through withdrawals, and it's like having the flu times ten," Knight said. She continued, "It's just like you can't move, you can't get out of bed, you're going through sweats, and it's physically painful, and the only thing to make it better is to get more of it, and if a doctor's not going to give it to you, you're going to find it."
Knight explained that the addiction became off again, on again for more than 10 years. The opioid addiction eventually escalated to harsher drugs, like heroin.
"There's a point where just keep going and keep going and you don't want to stop, and I knew my body was about to shut down," Knight said. "I could feel the overdose coming, and I just didn't care."
When Knight found out that she was pregnant with her third child, she knew it was time to ask for help. She turned to Abilene Recovery Council. located in downtown. ARC is a nonprofit dedicated to helping those battling addiction.
"You can actually become dependent on an opioid in a week," said Justin Uphill, a recovery coach with Abilene Recovery Council.
Uphill became Knight's recovery coach. He explained that the numbers in the Big Country are slightly less than the national average, but are still concerning. In 2017, nearly one opioid prescription was written for every person in the 30-county area they cover from Abilene to Wichita Falls. Uphill mentioned that number has decreased as laws have changing and doctors are being more careful.
According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, in fiscal year 2017, 91 people in the area were screened for Opioid Addiction Use Disorder.
In 2018, that number increased to 103 people.
So far, 20 people have been screened this year, keeping 2019 on track for accumulating similar numbers of screenings as recent years.
Uphill mentioned that there were at least 3 deaths in Abilene that blamed on opioid overdoses last year; however, the number may be twice that amount, as some deaths are not reported as overdoses.
"It is life or death for these people, and if they're struggling and they're reaching out for help the least we can do is help them as best we can," Uphill stated.
Knight was in a rehabilitation facility in Houston for 30 days. Drugs like SUBOXONE helped her with cravings, and eased the symptoms of withdrawal. She explained that thoughts of her children helped her make it through.
"I didn't recognize myself, and I knew that my children didn't deserve what I was putting them through."
Knight has been clean for the last 11 months. She told KTXS that she is thankful to have her life back with her children.
"I'm able to provide for them, take care of them, love them -- sober," Knight said with relief.
She wants share her story to anyone facing the struggle of opioid addiction.
"There is help out there, and you're not alone, and there are people out there that are going through exactly what you're going through -- the pain and the void, and all it really takes is just to ask for help."
If anyone is struggling with addiction, they can contact Abilene Recovery Council for help finding treatment options. People can also visit WTCR, an opioid dependence clinic in Abilene. It is one of ten locations across the state.