It's an affliction affecting people from all walks of life, all around the country, and it’s one that not always starts with a needle in a back alley. For many addicts, the journey begins in the medicine cabinet.
Common Ground Health, a nonprofit advocacy group, reports that from 2014 to 2016, more than half of people who overdosed on opioids in the Finger Lakes region had a previous prescription for painkillers. While Monroe County has made progress in addressing the issue, there is still much work to be done.
"Our data here in Monroe County says that we are overprescribing less than we used to,” said Dr. Mike Mendoza from the Monroe County Department of Health. “And while that is a step in the right direction, we have a long way to go. We know there are still a lot of opioids out on the streets and in medicine cabinets and we need to continue to work to reduce the supply."
Reducing that supply to doctors means having tough conversations with patients. It means prescribing less opioids that may send someone down the path of addiction.
While the solution for the nationwide opioid addiction epidemic is complicated, not all addict's lives end with an overdose. Some can even lead fulfilling lives after going through recovery.
"I'm currently under East House organization,” said Steven Barth, a former addict. “They can help you get a job, help you go to school, help you get a GED. They can create so many opportunities for you in life, that it would be dumb not to take advantage of it."
Anyone who is currently struggling with addiction and doesn't know where to turn for help can call the East House in Rochester at 585-238-4800 or contact the Monroe County Health Department at 585-753-5437.