States of Addiction: Meet the Faces of West Virginia's Opioid Cr - WOWK 13 Charleston, Huntington WV News, Weather, Sports

States of Addiction: Meet the Faces of West Virginia's Opioid Crisis

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Over 800 people died of drug overdoses in WV last year Over 800 people died of drug overdoses in WV last year
WV has highest drug overdose death rate in U.S. WV has highest drug overdose death rate in U.S.
People in Boone Co. have launched "Hero House" to help men in recovery People in Boone Co. have launched "Hero House" to help men in recovery

"I know what it's like when you are at your knees and you're begging the Lord to take your life because you'd rather be gone than have to deal withdrawal or find another drug," said Chelsea Carter, who is in recovery from opioid addiction.

"I would pray to die. I mean I would just ask God to let me die driving down the road or something," said Trena Dingess, who is also in recovery.

Chelsea Carter and Trena Dingess are recovering from addiction, survivors of West Virginia's opioid epidemic.

"At the age of 16 is when I tell people I met the next love of my life, Oxycontin," said Carter.

"So I mean I got really skinny and my eyes would like sink to the back of my head. And my mama even told me, she's like, 'I know you're on something,'" said Dingess.

"It got to the point where I was stealing off of everybody. I would rob my parents; I stole off my grandmother," said Carter.

Their survival may be the exceptions, not the rule. In the past 15 years opioid deaths have quadrupled in the Mountain State. Last year the death rate leaped another 13 percent. West Virginia continues to lead the nation in drug overdose deaths.

"Everybody in every community needs to be a part of the solution," said Dr. Rahul Gupta, West Virginia Public Health Officer.

Dr. Rahul Gupta is the West Virginia Public Health Officer, looking into why opioids hit here with such a vengeance. The state's struggling economy with high unemployment - especially in the coal industry - created despair. Injured workers had easy access to prescription pain-killers, that were over-prescribed and highly addictive. When prescriptions ran out, use of other opiates surged.

"We are also seeing some of that reflected into more cheaper, more readily available alternatives in terms of heroin and fentanyl," said Dr. Gupta.

Users would even liquify pills to save money.

"So I started shooting them, because shooting them to me was a quicker way of getting high, and I didn’t have to spend as much money on it because I would break the bill down," said Chelsea Carter, a recovering opioid user.

One step at a time in recovery, Trena and Chelsea, are fighting back in their own way. They and others are fixing up a Boone County home called, "Hero House". It will someday house 12-men who are sober, and trying to transition back into society and the workforce.

"I want to do whatever I can to help people, and to show them that recovery is possible," said Trena Dingess, of Hero House.

"But with recovery, if you just take a step out and say, 'You know what? I need help!' I'm here to help you and hold your hand and show you, this can be done," said Chelsea Carter, of Hero House.

Their work offers a ray of hope, in the bleak opioid crisis.

"According to the West Virginia Department of Health, the problem is getting worse not better. In fact, on average now, one person dies every ten hours in the Mountain State, from a drug overdose - usually opiates," said Mark Curtis, 13 News Chief Political Reporter.

NOTE:  "HERO HOUSE" IS STILL TRYING TO GET OFF THE GROUND AND GET IT'S DOORS OPEN IN BOONE COUNTY, TO HELP THOSE IN RECOVERY. YOU CAN VOLUNTEER OR MAKE A DONATION BY EMAILING: HEROHOUSEMADISON@YAHOO.COM, OR CHECK OUT THE "HERO HOUSE" PAGE ON FACEBOOK. Or call, Richie Schultz (304) 369-7081; or Bill Mullins (304) 928-3185.

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