Dr. Marcellus Cephas, of the Community Recovery Center in Rome, estimates that as many as 75% of the patients he sees were at one time legitimately prescribed an opioid for pain. The doctor reinforces what addicts already know-that addiction is not a choice.
"Physiologically, the reason people get addicted is because the type of receptor that the opioids actually treats or binds with is a receptor that will develop a need for that medication," says Cephas. "You may actually stop taking the medication, but the receptor has not changed."
Regardless of the addiction's inception, its grip on its victims keeps Rome Memorial Hospital's emergency department busy.
"Opiate use is part of about 39 admissions a month within the ER. It's not just related to overdoses," says Ashlee Thompson, of the CRC.
In central New York, there is an army of health professionals helping addicts beat addiction, doing their best to make sure there are no cracks through which to fall.
"They're on the other side of substance abuse disorders and now they have all this free time. And what do they do with their free time?" asks Kathy Peters, Advocacy Coordinator for the Center for Family Life & Recovery.
The answer, in part, can be found in, "Give it a Whirl," a support group that meets to socialize, share healthy eating tips and recipes as well as other positive ways to pass the time while being reminded that they're not alone. On a Wednesday night in mid-February, occupational therapy students from Utica College were teaching the group smoothie recipes and letting them try hummus. The room was filled with laughter.
At RFA, they beat opioid addiction before it starts, by asking students who get in trouble for alcohol or marijuna to meet with experts from CFLR instead of being suspended from school.
"What we found is pretty much 100% success rate," says Superintendent Peter Blake. "And I can say this year, that any students that has entered the CFLR program has not been a repeat offender of a violation of the code of conduct relevant to substances."
Strides are being made, victories had, and stories told by those victors of beating an addiction they never thought they'd survive. But while the beast might lie dormant, it's never dead; recovery is forever.
"Maybe every other month I just have a fleeting thought what it would be like to get high again...the foundation i have from ...everything and from rehabilitation allows me to play the tape all the way through and know I'll just end up right back where I was," says Tyler hand.
"I'm gonna have to be aware of this my entire life. It's like someone with diabetes. You have it forever," says recovering addict, Thomas Reilly, who oversees the Friends in Recovery, Mohawk Valley, support group meeting.
"I always like to think if there's one breath left, there's hope," says Hand.