From Syringe to Sobriety

July 16, 2018 07:43 AM

(ABC 6 News) -- Addiction is a challenging battle for anyone, even more so for those who have struggled with getting help.

“A lot of it is a two-week waiting list you know sometimes you need to get in right away and two weeks is too long,” said Paige, a recovering drug addict.


Paige is on her way to make a better life for herself and her family. Paige started out like so many others; becoming addicted to opioids.

“When I was younger, about 14, I got hooked on opiates. My first drug of choice is heroin and I guess for the next ten years I’ve struggled with heroin addiction,” said Paige.

Paige has been in and out of jail and struggled to stay sober while pregnant.

“I have a three-year-old daughter now and unfortunately I wasn’t able to stay sober throughout that pregnancy so I no longer have custody. But kind of what brought me here was I was pregnant and I lost a baby and I ended up having an overdose and it was an accidental overdose and I ended up in the hospital,” said Paige.

After her family’s pestering, Paige finally ended up at Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge.

“I didn’t want to go. I did not want to at all,” said Paige.

Paige said she managed to make it through her addiction alive, which is not the case for so many others. 

"The rate of death from overdoses is actually increasing. And, right now, it is estimated that approximately 33,000 people die annually in the United States from some type of opioid overdose.  Half of those people are directly tied to prescription opioids," said Dr. W. Michael Hooten, an anesthesiology professor at the Division of Pain Medicine at Mayo Clinic in Rochester.

In 2016 Minnesota had 395 opioid overdose deaths and Iowa had 180 opioid-related deaths. According to a report by WalletHub in May of 2017, both Minnesota and Iowa ranked in the top 20 for drug health and rehabilitation issues. Iowa sits at number eight and Minnesota sits at 14.

"Right now we just started awaiting list. We do run three different groups throughout the day we had to add an addition group throughout our midday because we have such a high need for getting people help and even just in Mower County," Brianna Kuster said.

Kuster is an alcohol and drug counselor at Fountain Centers in Austin. She said she sees a lot of patients get into a facility within a week but sometimes that is not soon enough, "You know addiction is not something that can be put on a waitlist unfortunately and the longer we let those people sit out there the more dangerous their addiction maybe come and that the unfortunate part I don't think there are enough resources for it."

It is the same story at the Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge,  "Well, the problem is virtually all of our campuses are full at the present time right now Brainerd is full the twin cities is full and so there's only so many you can reach out."

Fountain Centers in Albert Lea also offers treatment. Dr. Tyler Scott Oesterle said that at least one in four people that comes into their program has struggled with an opiate addiction, "Most of our patients have a mix of multiple substances so rarely do we just have individuals that are purely opiate addicts."

Even though all the rehabilitation centers in the area work together, Kuster said HIPAA laws prevent some people from getting the care they need, "And so if a Mayo Clinic Emergency Room doctor looks at a patient's Mayo Clinic history Fountain Center's encounter won't show up. So, unfortunately, those ER doctors won't have any clue that these people are receiving help and have been former addicts and it's to protect their confidentiality because of the stigma. But I think, in turn, it makes it a lot easier for people to become overprescribed."

As for Paige, she plans to continue to grow in her sobriety, and in her case, her role as a mother, "I'm actually really lucky as far as with my daughter. She's been adopted, so I can't get my rights back but I live with her outside of here and our relationship is ever growing and it's almost like the adoption never took place. so I still the privilege to be called mom."

A recent report by WalletHub in 2018 shows that in 2018 both Minnesota and Iowa's ranks changed. Minnesota now sits at 43 and Iowa sits at 33. 

As for Paige, when we did the interview she was enrolled in a long-term program and had been sober since December 18, 2017. She is no longer in that program.

If you are interested in looking for resources regarding rehabilitation, there is help available. In Austin, a Circle of Hope group meets on the first and third Monday of each month at 6:30 p.m. in the Fireside Room of Our Saviors Lutheran Church. There is also a family support group on the first and third Thursdays of each month at 7:00 p.m. at Fountain Centers in Rochester.


Brian Wise

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