The war against heroin: On the front lines in Mid-Michigan - WNEM TV 5

The war against heroin: On the front lines in Mid-Michigan

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BAY COUNTY, MI (WNEM) -

Like many working moms, Blayne Adams juggles many titles. Her proudest is mom. It’s a title that potentially saved her life.

“He’s funny, he’s smart. He’s my miracle,” Adams said of her son.

Two-year-old Harrison doesn’t know it, but every bath time and every family outing is like medicine for a woman who three years ago was overwhelmed with emotional turmoil.

“All I wanted was oblivion, an escape, because I couldn’t stand me,” Adams said.

It started with binging on Adderall in college. Her partying spiraled out of control until she dropped out and lost her job. Soon, she found something more potent.

“I fell in love with it. I didn’t hate myself anymore when I did Oxy, you know, I just felt like all my problems just melted away,” Adams said.

Those problems, she said, are so clear now. Looking back on her childhood, Adams grew up with a single mom. She moved in and out of different homes and her parents remarried. Another sibling was born, all while Adams struggled to adjust.

Adams said she only wished she had known the pain would lead to years of chasing that escape and eventually finding it with heroin.

“Just chasing that feeling of being OK with me, that self-live, I did not have that,” Adams said.

In that chase came losing her license, prostituting and checking in to more than a dozen treatment centers. Then about three years ago it was no longer just her story she was writing.

“Bring it in again, ‘I hate myself.’ Not only am I harming me and ruining my life, but now I have a child, you know, that I have to take care of,” Adams said.

Adams and her boyfriend, CJ, both addicted to heroin, got the miracle they needed. They were pregnant with Harrison.

She went to Recovery Pathways in Bay City and quit right on the spot. It was her first step in the lifelong battle of being a recovering addict.

“We try to train people’s brains to release dopamine from normal activities instead of exogenous chemicals,” Dr. William Morrone explained.

Morrone said only a small percentage of people have the brain chemistry of an addict and once their brain is exposed to certain chemicals, it’s hijacked.

In Michigan, heroin death rates have steadily increased since 2012. Many of those from the most recent data in 2014 were in Mid-Michigan.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also report heroin-related deaths jumped 20 percent across the United States the following year.

Morrone said that’s why brutally honest treatment is so vital.

“Take your medicine, come to counseling, shut up and go to work, pay more attention to your wife and provide time to your children – stop hanging out with the guys smoking on the street corner. That’s what we tell people here,” Morrone said.

Morrone outlined three ways to get a handle on heroin addiction:

  1. Decrease the prescribing of medication that leads to substance abuse
  2. Increase access to the opioid overdose antidote, Naloxone
  3. Expand medication-assisted treatment

“It is a true illness, so it needs to be treated by treatment providers,” Joel Strasz said.

Strasz said the Bay County Health Department has used Morrone’s expertise to develop three target areas to curb the epidemic: criminal justice, community engagement and a big focus on treatment.

Strasz added for addicts and the community, treatment is a better option than jail time.

Not only does treatment give addicts a better shot at getting clean, but also outpatient treatment costs taxpayers roughly a fifth as much as jail time.

“The average person that gets hooked into addiction is not a criminal,” Strasz said. “They’re put into bad circumstances and they will do things that are unfathomable, but that’s the reason why you need to get them into treatment sooner rather than later.”

“I think there's a huge stigma sort of feeling that it's a weakness and that, you know, addiction is basically the person on the side of the road with a needle hanging out of their arm, and although part of that is true, what it doesn't touch on is the professionals that are working - the people that have been using for 40-something years - the professional doctors, lawyers,” Luka Dziubyna said.

The stigma of addiction is one of the driving forces behind Dziubyna’s documentary “Saginaddict.” The Saginaw native has seen firsthand how the stigma and silence have worked to destroy families.

 “I joined the military in 2004 and I had lost, in six and half years of being active duty, I had actually lost more people that I knew in Saginaw at that time than I did in the military,” he said.

More than a dozen addicts, recovering addicts and those mourning an addict tell their story in his upcoming documentary. One of them is Adams.

“The majority of people if they met her would never, ever consider her to be an addict of any sort,” Dziubyna said.

Adams, three years clean, now chases a new high – helping other women as they make their first step toward recovery.

“It’s so rewarding when one of my clients lets go of that toxic relationship or gets a job, you know. That’s awesome or they get a year clean – holy cow, that’s such an accomplishment,” Adams said.

Adams admits, fighting her addiction is something that she battles every day. However, through treatment and learning to love herself, she’s found healthier ways of coping.

“Today, I choose to work out or to play with my child or to do something productive, you know,” Adams said.

Adams said getting to that point – having a job, getting her license back, getting in shape, getting her life back – are all thanks to their little miracle, Harrison. 

Adams plans to go back to school in May to study social work.

SaginADDICT premieres May 6 at the Temple Theatre in Saginaw. If you'd like more information on SaginADDICT or wish to support its mission in reaching more communities, click here

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