Personal stories from the opioid epidemic - and how to get help

Oct 27, 2017

Gates Police Chief James VanBrederode (with host Juan Vazquez) demonstrates how to use a Narcan nasal dispenser.
Credit secondopinion-tv.org

Hours after President Trump declared the national opioid addiction crisis a public health emergency Thursday, WXXI-TV aired a series of programs exploring the issue.

On a special edition of "Second Opinion", a middle class mother and grandmother shared her story of addiction.

Cynthia Scudo was prescribed the narcotic OxyContin for hip pain. She accidentally took a double dose one day and said she experienced a feeling of euphoria and quickly became dependent on the drug. When her doctor lowered the dosage, Scudo did something she had never done before.

"I drove right to a young man's house who I knew dealt heroin,” she said. “OxyContin is very expensive. I could sell one pill, which wasn't even one dose for me, and get enough heroin for two and a half days."

Scudo said she was taught to smoke heroin. She convinced herself that if she wasn't injecting the drug, then she wasn't really a heroin addict.

She smoked heroin for 9 years before entering recovery. 

An Irondequoit couple told the heart wrenching story of how they lost their son to an overdose on March 7, 2017.

After Patrick Mullin graduated from Nazareth College and the Air Force Academy, he became addicted to three narcotic pain medications he was prescribed for pancreatitis, a disease that causes severe pain, nausea, and vomiting. He eventually switched to heroin.

"And I have a vivid memory of my son standing in the living room saying to me 'You know mom, it's the same chemical makeup in heroin as it is in the opioids,' Mary Mullin said, “And my heart sunk, because I knew we were in trouble."

Mary and Joe Mullin said their son did get help through a 12-step program and a detox facility, but he met other drug users there and was ultimately unable to overcome his addiction.

The evening of the day Patrick died at the Zen Center, where he had been working and living, the Mullins visited his friends at ROCovery, a Rochester-based support group that promotes sober living through physical activity.

Mary Mullin said 60 to 80 people sat in a circle and told her about her son.

"We found out that he was doing wonderful things even in and out of recovery. He helped people, he brought people to ROCovery, he brought people to meetings, he tried his very best. They went around the room and they told us what wonderful things he had done for them and then we got a chance to tell them what wonderful things they had just done for us."

The latest numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that 64,070 people died from drug overdoses in 2016. That's a 21 percent increase over the year before.

Last year Monroe County, 169 deaths were directly linked to the use of heroin, opioids, fentanyl, and similar substances, twice the number of such fatalities reported in 2015.

Law enforcement officers have learned a new skill in the midst of the opioid epidemic.

In the town of Gates, police routinely encounter people who are overdosing. Chief James VanBrederode was driving to the grand opening of an addiction treatment facility six weeks ago when he discovered a man slumped over the wheel of his vehicle at a busy intersection.

He used Narcan nasal spray to stop the overdose.

"Unfortunately, because we've been on so many of these, it's become very routine,” he said. “We do have a system in place for what needs to be done. If someone has a heartbeat when we arrive, we've had a successful save with just about everyone."

There is a Good Samaritan law in New York State that allows a person to call 911 without fear of arrest if they are having a drug or alcohol overdose that requires emergency medical care, or if they are witnessing someone overdosing.  "The intent of that is, saving someone's life is more important that being arrested for possession of these drugs," Van Brederode said.

For a list of resources about drugs and addiction, visit https://www.secondopinion-tv.org/overdose.