"What flavor dope do you want this month?" Pereira, 36, of
Pereira was being treated for a severely shattered right foot in a car accident. She had fallen asleep with her feet on the dashboard and the driver crashed into a tree.
Pereira instilled her trust in a doctor who promised he could do the surgery to reconstruct her foot. Between the initial accident, surgeries and physical therapy, Pereira became hooked on the painkillers prescribed to her.
"I couldn't walk. Once I took the pills, I could walk on clouds," said Pereira, who would ask her doctor to up her dosage or seek opioids from other physicians around the
"I didn't know what I didn't know," she said. "I knew the pills were helping my pain and helping me function."
She finally began walking, but the need for opioids didn't go away. The physical pain from the accident and emotional pain caused by what she calls an abusive boyfriend both were numbed by the painkillers, she said.
Six months after walking -- two and a half years after the accident -- Pereira turned to the streets instead of pharmacies to buy pills. She bought Oxycontin. When that became too expensive, she turned to heroin.
Pereira now is in recovery, but the story of her path to addiction is a familiar one.
Government bodies and officials in communities in
And, according to data provided by the
More than a billion doses
That data from a
Across the country more than 2,000 municipalities -- including
"Like many others,
He said expenses for fighting the opioid crisis are far-reaching, including the cost of public health, police and emergency services, and public education.
"It's not just (the costs) to treat people, but educate people and get people into recovery," he said.
"Dangerous opioid drugs are killing people across
More than 11.4 million of those opioid doses went to
"The town of
"More importantly," he wrote, "the town felt it was important to play a leading role in seeking to hold accountable those responsible for the human toll of this epidemic."
During the same time period in
Between 2006 and 2012 prescription opioids contributed to the majority of overdose deaths in
In 2013 heroin contributed to about as many deaths as prescription opioids in both states. Then in 2014 there was a spike in overdose deaths coinciding with the rise of those related to synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl, according to the
And there's a clear connection between pain pill addiction and the path to heroin and fentanyl addiction, experts say.
Documents filed in the lawsuits against the pharmaceutical companies, including the
"The documents being provided to everyone lay out the deceptive marketing and messages (about the pharmaceuticals) that mislead the medical community and the public about the risks associated with prescription opioids," Cox said. "Board members and executives personally sanctioned these actions. This is an attempt to hold them accountable. ... This kind of behavior isn't acceptable."
No lawsuit, however, can undo the wreckage of addiction in the lives of so many addicts, their families, and society at large.
More than half of the addicts she talks to were first prescribed a painkiller, she estimated.
"Personally I think if Oxy never came on the market the epidemic wouldn't be the way it is," Ingersoll, 38, said. "Oxy ruined so many lives. (The makers) should have been open and honest about the dangers of becoming addicted."
She and her partner
'I would get 110 pills at a time'
Ingersoll, herself, is a recovering addict who celebrated nine years of sobriety this month.
She was first prescribed painkillers in her early 20s to combat rheumatoid arthritis. Initially she took Vicodin, then Percocets and then Oxycontin when each had less of a painkilling effect.
Then her doctors cut her off.
"I was wondering why did I have the flu," she said, describing her symptoms after stopping the medications. "It was withdrawal."
Without a prescription from a doctor and suffering severe withdrawal symptoms, Ingersoll turned to the street to buy oxycodone. She continued to take the dose she was prescribed, but her tolerance grew.
Then came heroin.
Pereira's path was similar. She lost her health insurance, but she still needed pain medication.
"I would get 110 pills at a time, and without insurance it cost so much money," she said.
She tried to ween herself off the drugs, but the withdrawal symptoms were overwhelming. So she turned to buying them on the street, until that was too expensive.
Then someone told her: "You know there is something else that will work the same that is half the price."
And for Pereira, too, that was heroin.
Pereira grew up in
She had always known heroin was a thing that people did, but it was an abstract concept, she said. She recalls judging those figurative heroin addicts.
But once she tried it, she was hooked, taking heroin every day for about a year.
She got clean for two years, then relapsed less than a year ago when three discs in her back ruptured.
"I had only seen the doctor one time, one X-ray for my back, and he took out the prescription pad," said Pereira, who also pointed out that she didn't disclose her addiction at the appointment.
Now five months sober, Pereira is happy she turned to help instead of heroin this time. She's living at a sober house and keeping a busy schedule of recovery and temporary work while she looks for a full-time job.
She was able to reach out for help "because I have no shame about my addiction," she said.
After working through the 12 steps of recovery and participating in group therapy, she has become more open with her story, she said. She hopes that telling it might help others.
She said she knows she cannot take opioids and has learned to question what a doctor prescribes.
"You figure they would be more careful and more caring about what could happen to their patients when they leave their office with a script," she said.
WHERE TO FIND HELP
If you or anyone you know has a substance abuse issue there are resources at local, state and federal levels.
Andover CARES: Group's mission is to address substance abuse and addiction in the community through three pillars of support: education, intervention and enforcement. Visit andovercares.org.
Methuen CARES: Support and resources those struggling with addiction and their families. Call
Circle of Hope: A family support group for addicts. Call 978-866-2949.
Massachusetts Substance Use Helpline: Call 800-327-5050, Monday to Friday,
211 New Hampshire: 211 is a 24-hour hotline. For anyone outside
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