Willacy Co. Held Meeting to Address Opioid Epidemic

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RAYMONDVILLE – Prescription drug abuse in the Rio Grande Valley is on the rise and now one county is taking action.

Willacy County leaders held a town hall meeting Wednesday. Local leaders want to educate the community and stop the problem before it spreads any further.

CHANNEL 5 NEWS spoke with a woman who says her opioid addiction began at the doctor's office. Before she knew it, she fell into a group that's growing in the Valley.

Susan Veness is standing tall today. One year ago, she was nearly gone.

"I folded up with my eyes wide-open in a fetal position and just shut-down. She called an ambulance. I was starting to die," she said.

She was trying to quit Fentanyl patches. Veness was prescribed the drug to relieve pain. Fentanyl patches are considered an opioid.

Opioids are drugs that are prescribed to you by a doctor that is habit-forming.

Veness explains, "Fentanyl made me feel totally dysfunctional."

Opioids and other prescription drugs are leading many to addiction, according to the Texas School Survey on Drug and Alcohol Use.

In the Valley, teens are abusing a variety of prescription drugs. The trend increases as they get older, state data shows. About 70 percent of them get them from friends or families.

Rosalie Tristan of Communities Against Substance Abuse Coalition, or the CASA Coalition, says there is a high use of prescription drug use among people in Willacy County. They reminded them to keep medication locked away.

Intervention specialist Stephanie Garcia says that the responsibility of prevention should be shared.

"Doctors are not warning people of the dangers or the possibility of actually getting addicted to prescription medication and it's really sad," she said.

That's what happened to Veness. The four years she was prescribed Fentanyl came at a high cost to her health and family.

"Job loss. Lucy couldn't go to school; she was in a home taking care of me. So, she lost almost two years of college. She's in her late 20s trying to finish," she explains.

Veness says it wasn't easy to get clean, but she is now. She wants others to know there is help available before it's too late.

Tristan says one of the best ways to prevent opioid addiction is to dispose properly of prescription medicine.

Willacy County will be hosting a throw-away event on Feb. 7. It will take place from 10 a.m. through 2 p.m. at Watson's City Drug on 192 S. 7th St., Raymondville.

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