Over the next two weeks, House Republicans will be taking up dozens of bills to fight the opioid crisis in America. These efforts follow our passage of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act and the 21st Century Cures Act last Congress, as well as the $4 billion appropriated in the omnibus earlier this year.
This past April, the Energy and Commerce Committee held a roundtable discussion to offer a speaking platform to those who have faced the opioid crisis in our country. Some have lost children, others have confronted to battle of addiction, all have come forward to share the realities and dangers of opioids abuse. These are their stories.
Michael Gray’s Story:
Many victims of the opioid crisis today do not fit the classical pattern of drug addiction.
Counterintuitive as it may sound, Amanda Gray’s lack of addiction was a key contributor to her death. She was beautiful and full of life, but she suffered from acute borderline personality disorder, a mental health issue which is relatively resistant to medical intervention.
“When experiencing her most intense episodes, Amanda self medicated,” her father, Michael, testified to the House Energy and Commerce Committee, “first with benzodiazepines and then with heroin.”
On January 11, 2018 Amanda was killed after ingesting pure fentanyl.
“As an intermittent user, she had neither the resistance to fentanyl exposure nor the experience to know she was ingesting pure fentanyl.” Michael explained.
That night, in the same city where Amanda died, six other individuals lost their lives, likely from the same drug mix Amanda ingested.
“The days of thinking drug addiction is for the cities and for certain people and broken families, if it ever were true, is ancient history.”
Ken and Lisa Daniels’ Story:
As a young child, Jamie was full of life. He was happy, protective, and loyal.
“He was a spitfire of a kid,” his mother, Lisa, told the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
When Jamie left for college, his parents had their concerns — as many parents do — about the type of “fun” he might come face to face with. Much to their despair, in his determination to get into a specific fraternity, Jamie took drugs as part of a hazing ritual.
“We don’t know exactly when he turned to opioids, but we do know they were easily obtainable on campus and by the time he graduated, he couldn’t stop,” Lisa testified.
After graduation, Jamie started rehab in an effort to get clean. His family began to see very apparent changes in his life, but the battle of addiction was too much and he relapsed shortly after beginning the program.
“Drug addicts don’t want to be drug addicts,” Jamie’s father, Ken, explained of his child.
Jamie made the decision, after multiple relapses, to admit himself to an inpatient facility in Florida. His mother explained how, in this facility, a self-described addiction specialist decided to put him on new medication to deal with his anxiety, setting him up for inevitable failure.
On December 7, just four days after being prescribed these medications, Jamie ingested heroin laced with fentanyl. According to his parents, since he had been clean for seven months, the pill shocked his heart and eventually killed him.
“The opioids crisis devastated our family.”
Devon Hott’s Story:
Devon Hott has been clean for a little over three years.
Growing up, Devon explained that she was never taught how to cope and deal with life, leading her to drugs and alcohol as a solution.
“It was a very vicious cycle every day,” she told the House Energy and Commerce Committee, “Wanting to stop, not knowing how to stop, wanting to stop, not knowing how to stop.”
In those dark days, Devon was on a range of medications furthering her addiction. When she recalls that time in her life, she explained how, essentially, her doctor became her drug dealer (though she has taken ownership of her choice to abuse prescription medicine).
After totaling her car and being issued multiple DUIs, Devon was taken to jail for eight long days.
“I knew I was in there for a reason, and that I was [being] given an opportunity to do something different with my life.”
After more than three years in recovery, Devon explained how her life has purpose once again.
“For people battling addiction today, I definitely want them to know that there’s another solution, and that there is a way out,” Devon explained, “Life can get really, really, really good if you’re willing to do something different.”
Aimee Manzoni D’Arpino’s Story:
Emmett was Aimee’s first born; the child who she says “taught her how to be a mom.”
It all started in high school when he began experimenting with drugs, namely marijuana and a synthetic drug called K2. At this initial revelation, Aimee and her husband got Emmett involved in a 12-step program with recovery support in hopes of setting him on the right path. For two years, their son was clean — excelling academically and socially. He was even inducted into the National Honor Society.
When Emmett left for college, he lost his support system and fell back into old habits with drug experimentation. Shortly after beginning his studies, he was offered heroin at a party. Emmett passed away 18 months later on April 20, 2016.
“I still carry around my phone that has a 2-year-old voicemail on it,” Aimee shared with the Energy and Commerce Committee, “That voicemail is from the hospital telling us that we needed to call and that Emmett was in trouble.”
Emmett died alone in the hospital.
Aimee learned later that her son had been revived at the same hospital at least seven times before his fatal overdose.
“That’s seven missed opportunities to save this young man’s life,” Aimee explained.
It’s estimated that more than 115 Americans die every day after overdosing on opioids; that’s more than 40,000 people annually. People like Emmett, Jamie, and Amanda who have their whole lives ahead of them are succumbing to this public health emergency.
We must press on in our fight against this crisis gripping our nation.
Take a moment to share these stories with your friends and family.