Special Assignment: Through an Addict's Eyes

Published: Sep. 7, 2017 at 4:13 PM EDT
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Thursday, September 7, 2017

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Opioid addiction crosses every race, age, and economic status line. Add in the recent rise of synthetic opioids and it's the most dangerous type of drug on the market today. The Richmond County Sheriff's Office found its first confirmed batch of synthetic opioids in Augusta this year.

In Georgia, 68% of overdose deaths are from opioids. Last year, in Richmond County alone, more than three dozen people are suspected of dying because of it. Part of the reason this is a drug is so deadly is because it does not discriminate.

"Eight to twelve pills day. It was the lowest point in my life," Travis Peterson said. He walked into Bluff Plantation broken and addicted.

Liz Owens: "What were you thinking when you first walked through that door?"

Travis Peterson: "I was thinking I made a big mistake."

Peterson isn't the type of man to make big mistakes which is why he never thought he would end up at a rehab facility.

October 30, 2004, Peterson and his twelve person team were driving through Fallujah when a suicide bomber struck. Three of the twelve survived.

His physical pain was just as paralyzing as the mental pain. "I would take them and I would no longer have the nightmares. I would no longer have the bad thoughts. No longer did I have the inability to go to sleep for two or three days. The pills made it all melt away. I was able to sleep. I was able, in the beginning, to function," he said. As time passed, his reliance on pain pills grew. "The drive for the drug out weighs common sense. I probably had a $200 dollar a day habit. I went from physically needing it for my pain to abusing mentally because it made me forget stuff and it also felt good."

"This is not about being weak willed, morally bankrupt, crazy, numb or stupid. This is a disease where your brain is hijacked," Dr. William Jacobs with Bluff Plantation and Augusta University Medical Center said. Hijacked by a drug inside our medicine cabinet as well as on our streets.

Opioid abuse is one of the deadliest addictions today. This summer, three people died and more than two dozen overdosed in middle Georgia because of it. "Opioid addicts tend to push their use to the edge of death every time because they're trying to get the max high they can," Dr. Jacobs said.

Georgia ranks eleventh for most opioid overdose deaths in the country. "Opioids cause respiratory depression. People stop breathing. They die," Dr. Jacobs said. "Georgia's got 159 counties and 70% of our counties have no or very limited addiction treatment."

The federal government recently gave Georgia nearly twelve million dollars to combat the opioid epidemic. Some of the money will go towards the expansion of treatment services for addicts.

"I knew I had a chance of losing my family and losing my life is something didn't change," Peterson said. Hen made that change when he came to Bluff Plantation in May of 2014. "My motivation to this day is my wife and family. It's definitely easier if you can get some help if you reach out. I think the stigma of addiction is changing now it's not just the junkie in the street now it's everybody from the rich to the poor," he said.