Local women fighting to overcome addiction and avoid joining growing overdose death statistic

PADUCAH — A new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found drug overdose deaths are on the rise among women. There were 4,314 female overdose deaths in 1999. Compare that to 18,110 in 2017.

The director at Ladies Living Free, Stacie Aycock says opioids and methamphetamine are the most common addictions she sees at the center. In 2018, she says 35 percent of the women treated were addicted to opioids.

That addiction can start with a prescription.

Laura Dunagan and Michelle Hill have become fast friends. They both went to Ladies Living Free on the same day last week seeking help for their addictions.

“I got really bad on pain pills,” Dunagan says. She says she’s been an addict for 10 years. “I was tired of my life. I was ready to change for my kids and my husband, make it better.”

Just like Dunagan, Hill’s addiction started by taking a prescription. “It started with the people I was hanging around, but then I had a boyfriend who had a script for lortabs,” Hill says.

Both of them only in their 20s and already hitting a breaking point. “It’s sad. You hurt the people that you love the most,” Hill says. “It’s embarrassing.”

They made it to Ladies Living Free for help, but that’s not always the case. In 2018, the McCracken County Sheriff’s Office had three drug-related arrests per day on average. Sheriff Matt Carter attributes that to adding another officer.

Carter says his officers are seeing more meth than opioids right now. “When it comes to arrest numbers, those arrest numbers clearly show that methamphetamine is still our biggest problem in this area,” he says.

Carter says although they see more meth related arrests, it doesn’t mean we don’t have an opioid problem. It goes back to prescription opioids. Carter says it can be more difficult for them to prove someone is abusing these drugs when they can hide behind a legal prescription.

After a combined 17 years of addiction, Dunagan and Hill are trying to get away from the cycle of abuse. “I’m not getting any younger, and I am just tired of — I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired,” Hill says. “It’s miserable living in addiction.”

In 2017, the CDC says, more than 70,000 Americans died from drug overdoses. That’s almost double how many people died in a car crash in the U.S. in 2017.

You can contact Ladies Living Free at  270-448-0961. If you are a man and want help with addiction, call Lifeline Ministries at 270-443-4743.

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