Former addict describes difficult road from opioid dependence to recovery

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Two-and-a-half million people in America are addicted to opioids and many of them are parents according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Healthcare and mental health workers attended a big abuse and treatment summit in the Northland all day Friday.

A shocking video shows a mom who overdosed in the toy aisle and a toddler standing next to her, sobbing, trying to wake her up. It’s a snapshot of the devastating consequences of an opioid addiction. Marlene Groves knows that all too well.

“I became homeless, I slept under a bridge. I had no family, no friends. I had nobody. I was lost. I tried to kill myself numerous times because I couldn’t stop,” she said.

Groves became addicted to pain killers after a car accident 12 years ago. After counseling and therapy, she asked about medication to treat her addiction. She was prescribed methadone and has been clean for almost six years. Medicated-assisted treatment was the main topic at a summit in Kansas City.

“There is a very common misconception that if you give someone medication for an addiction, you’re replacing an addiction with another addiction which is legal addiction. Addiction is not the things you put in your body, it is about the functional changes associated,” said Ned Presnall, the Clayton Behavioral Executive Director and a keynote speaker at the summit.

“There have been effective treatments for opioid dependence for over 50 years. And yet still a minority of people who come for treatment for opioid dependence receive any medication,” he added.

In 2015, the Drug Enforcement Agency announced prescription overdose deaths passed car accidents as a leading cause of accidental deaths in the U.S. For Groves, finding the right medicine to treat her addiction was worth the price.

“It was $70 a week. People think $70 a week, that’s horrible. But I was spending $70 a day on pills, so $70 a week is 10 dollars a day. It’s nothing compared to what I was spending on pain pills,” Groves said.

At the height of her addiction, Groves said she would have a full bottle of pain pills and still worried about how she was going to get more because she didn’t want to run out.

Since the started the medication-assisted treatment, she says her life is back on track.

“Went back to college, I was six credits away from my bachelors degree. I’m going to help people who are addicted to drugs and alcohol because I do understand. I’ve been there,” said Groves.