The Centers for Disease Control and prevention said, in 2016 alone, more than 42,000 people died of an opioid over dose.
Nearly half of those overdoses involved a prescribed medication.
Susan Anderson, the East Texas Abuse Coalition Coordinator, says that is especially alarming in East Texas because of how often these drugs are being prescribed.
“You’ve got Smith County as an example. You’ve got about 89 opioid prescriptions written per 100 people compared to the state of Texas that has about 53 prescriptions written per a hundred people,” said Anderson.
In 2016, Gregg County had some of the highest prescription rates in the state.
“Gregg County is pretty bad. The numbers are 132.9 so basically 133 prescriptions written per 100 people,” said Anderson. “So, you actually have more prescriptions written than people.”
The three other counties rounding out the top five are Wood, Henderson and Van Zandt counties.
Anderson said, it’s hard to pin-point why these number are so high in East Texas, but most of the counties listed have several things in common.
“There are certain characteristics, so you’ve got they’re predominantly white, have more rural areas and there’s a higher density of physicians and dentists,” said Anderson.
Even though many of those prescriptions are issued to people who may need them, Anderson said that does not mean they won’t end up in the wrong hands.
“Ultimately there are more opioids in the community that have the potential for illicit use,” said Anderson.
“Also, family members have direct access to those opioids too if certain precautions aren’t put in place,” said Anderson.
That’s exactly how Stacie Campbell said she got hooked.
“Started out with a migraine headache, and a family member gave me some prescription pain medication and I took a couple,” said Campbell. “I just couldn’t seem to stop.”
Campbell said before she knew it, she was taking dozens of pills a day.
“I started to look for more pain medications and I was prescribed to pain medication for a back problem or back pain, nothing significant,” said Campbell.
Her addiction caused her to lose her family, career and eventually, her freedom.
“One bottle turned into a thousand bottles and 17 years later, I’m still addicted to opiates,” said Campbell.
Kellie Davidson, another recovering addict has a similar story. She said she and her husband were hooked on other drugs and eventually moved to pain killers after her husband got a prescription.
She said before long, they were looking for more.
“We doctor shopped. At any given time, I had five or six doctors,” said Davidson. “We even went to Houston because it was a big place for those underground doctors that you could go and pay money, no questions asked and just get your prescription.”