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Addiction, opiates kill, panel members say

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Cathy Pietro (right) adds salsa to her plate before The Pitt County Coalition on Substance Abuse-Greenville STOP Series at Jarvis Memorial United Methodist Church Tuesday, May 16, 2017. Pietro lost her daughter due to a opioid related accident.


Beth Velliquette

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The somber looks on the women’s faces told the story; their teenage or adult children are struggling with an addiction to heroin or opiates and they don’t know what to do.

The mothers and others gathered Tuesday night at Jarvis Memorial United Methodist Church to talk and hear about heroin and opioids during a presentation by members of the Pitt County Coalition on Substance Abuse.

The meeting called, “Stop the Opioid Pandemic,” featured a detective, a recovering addict, his mother, a pain doctor and information about narconal, often referred to by its commercial name, Narcan, a drug which can stop an overdose almost immediately.

A few of the woman at the meeting had already experienced their worst fears. Their children or family member had already died from an overdose.

On Monday, Gov. Roy Cooper released figures comparing the number of opiate related deaths in 2005 to 2015. In North Carolina, there were more than 1,100 opiate-related deaths in 2015, compared to 642 in 2005. That’s a 73 percent increase in 10 years.

In Pitt County, eight people died from an opiate overdoses in 2005, and in 2015, that number increased to 12 opiate-related deaths.

Edgecombe County had double the number of opiate-related deaths, going from three in 2005 to six in 2015. Beaufort County had six in 2005 and five in 2015, and Lenoir County had one in 2005 and seven in 2015.

Wake County had 35 opiate-related deaths in 2005 and 62 in 2015.

Across the country, heroin has made a deadly resurgence since its popularity in the late 1960s. Plus synthetic opiates, like fentanyl, which is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine, are causing people to overdose on it because they or the drug dealers who sell it to them don’t realize its potency.

Pitt County Sheriff’s Detective James Pinner told the group of 35 to 40 people about some of his experiences when he worked on drug cases.

He talked about the different ways addicts get prescription drugs, including forging prescriptions, doctor shopping or buying them on the street.

During a power point presentation, he showed prescriptions that had been forged, where a person had a legitimate prescription for “4” doses of an opiate, but added a one in front of the four to get 14, or changed 18 pills to 48 pills or changed the four in 40 to a nine to get 90 pills. Those were the ones that got caught because the pharmacists knew those were not the usual doses that a doctor would prescribe, he said.

One time, he arrested a woman who was using fake prescriptions all over Greenville. She told him she went to the public library, and using the computer there, copied a legitimate prescription and then made multiple copies of it to obtain illegal prescriptions.

Another time, the Staples store called him because a woman had made 100 copies of a prescription but left the original in the copy machine, he said.

Forging prescriptions in that way isn’t so common anymore, Pinner said. Now people are going doctor shopping, going from one doctor to another to get a prescription for pain pills.

“They go to the one doctor and get a prescription for 50 Oxycodone,” Pinner said. “A few days later they go to another doctor and get the same thing.”

That’s a felony, and new data bases that list prescriptions purchased are helping pharmacists and doctors know when someone is getting a pain prescription filled every couple of days.

Pinner told the story of 56-year-old Rebecca Nanney, who sold her prescribed fentanyl patch to a 24-year-old relative in 2014. He died from an overdose, and she went to prison for second-degree murder.

The group also heard from “Dustin” and his mother, “Lettie.”

First Dustin told his story of becoming addicted to heroin and how he quit but then started using again. He has been clean for three years, but his sister, who also became addicted to heroin, didn’t survive.

Their mother, Lettie, told the story about how her daughter was a popular cheerleader in high school, was going to college and had two part time jobs, yet she had a secret. She was a heroin addict, and one of the few sign that something was wrong was that the spoons in their house kept disappearing. She was using them to cook her heroin.

Finally, her daughter came forth and told her mother she was addicted to heroin, and they arranged for her to go to a treatment facility in Wilmington. She spent 30 days there and was proud of her progress. She came home, visited her family, and was driving back to a halfway house to continue her treatment, Lettie said.

But she also called one of her old drug dealers, and bought some heroin. After returning to Wilmington, she went to a Narcotics Anonymous meeting, and then went to her room, closed the door and shot up heroin. She died.

No one would have ever believed that she would become a heroin addict and die from an overdose, her mother said. She was fun loving, smart, popular and worked hard.

“It took me a year to say her name without crying,” Lettie said. “It took me two years to be able to laugh again.”

She told the other mothers at the meeting not to give up.

“If you do have a child or member of your family that does suffer from addiction, tell them that you love them and that you support them,” Lettie said.

Contact Beth Velliquette at bvelliquette@refector.com or at 252-329-9566.