GASTON COUNTY, N.C. — The North Carolina senate is currently debating a bill that would dole out harsher punishments for people who sold opioids that resulted in an overdose. So far, the measure has received bipartisan support.
It comes as overdoses in North Carolina are at their highest ever, but people do break the cycle of addiction.
“I had an injury, it started with pills, doctors' prescriptions," Miranda Marshall said.
For Marshall, addiction overpowered everything.
"Once you're an addict it's not about getting high anymore, it's just about being OK and being able to move through the day," Marshall said.
For decades she was addicted to opioids, including fentanyl. Her addiction made her homeless and took her to prison, too.
“Being an addict is a life sentence," Marshall said.
There came a point where Marshall no longer wanted to struggle anymore. With almost nothing, she showed up at Pavana Treatment Group in Gastonia, hoping to get the help she needed.
"I was on everything you could think of and when I got here, I tested positive for seven different drugs, I was dying," Marshall said.
You don't have to look far to see the ongoing struggle with addiction. The epidemic is getting worse, as overdose deaths hit a new high.
In 2021, more than 4,000 people in North Carolina lost their lives due to an overdose. It's the highest number of overdose deaths in a single year on record in the state.
“There are people getting a pain pill from their friends and its fentanyl,” Melissa Blocker, director of Pavana Treatment Group, said.
Fentanyl is not new, but on the streets, its reached new levels.
North Carolina lawmakers and health officials are trying to fix the crisis with addiction prevention and stronger penalties for those who supply deadly drugs, but there seems to be no easy solution.
“I think it’s going to get worse because there’s stronger stuff coming down the pike," Blocker said.
Blocker said to truly help people, it starts with compassion.
“Not judging the patient no matter their circumstance that’s a huge thing,” Blocker said.
Receiving no judgment, Marshall has now been clean for two years. She's rebuilt the bridges she's burnt and is getting her degree in hopes of helping others.
“I’m preparing for my daughter’s wedding, and I can’t wait to see that," Marshall said. “I’m grateful to be alive and I’m still in the process of loving myself, I’m in a good place, but it’s a lifelong process."
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