Speak Out, Opt Out, Throw Out: Utah Woman Wishes She Never Touched Prescription Opioids
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – According to the Use Only As Directed campaign, it only takes seven days for someone to become addicted to opioids, which is why the campaign has urged people to speak out about the risk of addiction, opt out by using alternatives and throw out unused medication.
Most addictions begin with a legal prescription, which was the case with one Utah woman, who said she wishes she never took her first pill.
Destiny Garcia, 39, works in the Salt Lake County Mayor’s office, but it was a long journey landing this job.
Years ago, she was a single mom in an abusive relationship.
“I’ve had numerous black eyes, broken noses, I have a dent in the side of my head still from a fractured skill, my teeth have gone through my lip,” she said.
She frequented the emergency room and was prescribed prescription pain killers, in addition to sleeping pills and anxiety pills. Garcia said it was easy to get opioids.
“The first time I went to the doctors I walked out of there with 180 Percocet fifteens, 90 Ambien sleeping pills, 90 Klonopins which are anxiety pills, and then some muscle relaxers as well,” she said.
She took them all the time.
“I took them to numb my emotional pain. I took them to numb my life,” she said.
Garcia said the addiction happened immediately.
“Right away. It was right away,” she said.
She said the pills made her tired, which led to another addiction.
“I started to smoke meth to keep me awake,” Garcia said.
She eventually turned to the streets and also started using heroin. At the time, Garcia said she felt completely broken.
“I had lost my kids, my home, my family. I lost everything,” she described.
Finally, during Operation Rio Grande, she was offered in-patient rehab.
“So I took it and ran,” Garcia said.
After a year of treatment, Ben McAdams offered her a job in his mayor’s office. Garcia said she was finally turning her life around.
“I got this job and I realized that I have the skills that I forgot that I had when I was in my addiction,” she said.
Garcia said she now wishes she never touched opioids in the first place.
“I wish I never would have,” she said through tears.
She encouraged others to start the conversation and to speak out about the risks associated with opioid use.
“Talk to your doctor. Get educated,” she said. “People teach their kids not to do drugs, but never do they teach their kids and doctors, the drugs and the medicine cabinet.”
Intermountain Healthcare’s Todd Neubert, hospital administrator at Riverton Hospital, told people to ask their doctor specific questions.
“Am I a high risk for opioid abuse? Can I use something different? Are there other therapies I can use instead of opioids?” Neubert suggested.
Questions to ask your doctor:
- Am I at risk for addiction?
- Will something else work?
- How long will I be taking them?
- Are you prescribing the lowest possible dose?
- What’s the plan to taper me off?
If possible, he tells people to opt out of opioid use and turn to alternatives like over the counter pain relievers, physical therapy and yoga.
He also tells people to throw out unused pills.
“Get rid of them,” he said.
All three suggestions — to speak out, opt out and throw out — are part of the Use Only As Directed campaign.
“About 74% of Utahns who are addicted to opioids actually get them from family and friends,” Neubert said. “To destroy our leftovers is really helping our loved ones.”
Since overcoming her addiction, Garcia had a new baby and a successful surgery without opioids.
“I did fine with an ibuprofen,” she said. “Now, I wouldn’t take a pain pill if my life depended on it.”
Today Garcia said she’s grateful for the fresh start.
“But you have to just get back up and you can rebuild,” she said.
Neubert encouraged anyone with leftover or expired medications to safely dispose of them at a local dropbox. He said it’s dangerous to leave unused medication lying around. Visit Use Only As Directed to find your nearest drop box location and ideas for alternatives to opioids.
“Part of that is getting rid of your leftovers, making sure that you don’t have anything in your home that might cause somebody to become addicted,” Neubert said.
People can also get rid of leftover medication on National Prescription Drug Takeback Days held on the last Saturday in April and October. He also said NarcX, an at-home solution used to dissolve pills and deactivate leftover or expired opioids, is another safe option. Riverton City officials are passing out the solution for free to the public. Neubert said it normally costs $5 a bottle.
Neubert said it’s a great option for someone who is homebound and can’t get to a physical dropoff location. He said it contains a syrup that induces vomiting if someone tries to drink it.
“It’s a great solution for people who are working with individuals who have an addiction that want to get rid of their medications right there in their home,” he said.