Emergency rooms filling up with victims of opioid crisis - WNEM TV 5

Emergency rooms filling up with victims of opioid crisis

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(Source: WNEM) (Source: WNEM)
SAGINAW, MI (WNEM) -

Thousands of people in Michigan who use opioids to fill a void in their lives are filling emergency rooms instead.

Hospitals have seen a huge jump in overdose patients.

“We’ve seen a five-fold increase in the amount of opioids prescribed and the amount of overdoses that have occurred,” said Dr. Matthew Deibel, with Covenant Emergency Care Center.

Deibel said the crisis already has a strong hold in Mid-Michigan.

“It’s an unfortunate reality in life. The opioids can remove some of that pain pretty quickly, but it then has all these long-term issues and even sometimes short-term problems,” Deibel said.

According to the CDC, more Americans died from drug overdoses in 2016 than the number of people killed during the Vietnam War. That’s more than 58,000 people.

“I went from Vicodin to Oxycontin, which is a big difference. Also other painkillers in there too, opioids,” said Heather Karpuk, recovering addict.

Karpuk said she almost became one of those statistics before she finally called 911 on herself. She said the pills were easy to get even without a prescription.

“Coworkers really. Or people that already use were using. You just know people that get prescriptions basically,” Karpuk said.

Dr. Alec Weir is on the front lines. He sees up close what happens when an opioid abuser hits rock-bottom.

“A lot of these patients get treated by EMS providers, paramedics, police officers in the field,” Weir said.

Once someone has reached Weir and Covenant’s ER, that is the only chance the medical staff has to save their life.

“Once a patient with a heroin or opiate overdose presents to the emergency department we watch them. We keep an eye on them,” Weir said.

That’s all he can do. Emergency room doctors treat the patient, but they can’t force them to get treatment for that addiction that brought them in the first place.

“We usually release them from the emergency department. The hope is that we’re able to give them resources in the community to help them long-term with addiction recovery,” Weir said.

ER doctors can only hope their patients end up somewhere like Odyssey House, where Karpuk went to put an end to her addiction.

It’s where people like Lauren Stanton help them start their road to recovery.

“They don’t wanna admit that it’s gotten so bad. They don’t wanna admit that they are not able to do it on their own. They’ve lost all independence. That’s a scary feeling,” Stanton said.

Karpuk said facing her demons and seeking treatment was far better than the alternative.

“It’s always a fear. I know at times I felt hopeless and helpless and maybe didn’t so much care if I lived,” she said.

Karpuk is now looking forward to becoming part of a different statistic, one of the many people who can say they’ve beaten their addiction and have gone on to live long and healthy lives.

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