Former addict, EMS and recovery specialist speak about local heroin epidemic

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The nation is facing a serious drug problem in our country: heroin. While it isn't a new drug, the resurgence of it has reached epidemic levels, according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse.

Lynnette Taylor spoke to a local recovering heroin addict. While he wants to remain anonymous, he wanted to share his struggles to hopefully save someone else's life.

"My road to recovery... I grew up in a house of an alcoholic and drug addict, I thought I would never do either, but unfortunately I did," the man said. Merle, as he asked to be called, reads from his journal like it's a fairy tale, but it's real life. It's his reality.

"The heroin and the opioids don't pick and choose, they can get anybody, you don't have to be a bad person to get hooked on it," he explains.

Merle had a successful career in construction in Eastern Carolina, loved race cars and working in his shop. He, his wife and son, had a great life, that was until Merle got hurt and required surgery.

"I had a knee injury," he tells WITN. "I was taking Percocet and within two months I was hooked."

He says the high from the pain medication made him feel euphoric. When he ran out, he would lie to his doctors about his pain to get more. He even started buying pain medication from people off the streets.

"When I couldn't get it from a doctor, I would go to the emergency room and then they would give me some," says Merle. "Then it was back to the streets again. It just got so expensive."

He says a friend, a heroin user, told him about the heroin high. "I thought I would never use heroin. I told myself I would never shoot up and then, it got so bad where I couldn't get the pills, anymore of the opioids, I bought some heroin then I started snorting the heroin and then I tried to stay away from the needle. Snorting just wasn't working anymore, so I started shooting and it was devastation from then on."

Seven years ago his habit caused him to overdose. For EMS crews, it's that type of devastation being seen in Eastern Carolina lately.

"We believe, looking in the last few years, that we have seen a rise in the calls we run that could be heroin related," says Lee Avery, a Greenville EMS specialist.

Avery says they've had to use their Narcan to help revive people who seems to be suffering from an opioid induced overdose. "Most of the case we responded to, we were able to get the patient early enough and administer Narcan and bring them back around, where they were talking to us and doing OK by the time we got them back to the hospital. "

According to their records, they responded to 55 overdoses in the past four months. In 2015, they responded to 63 in that same time frame. They've used Narcan 45 times so far this year and since August of 2013, Narcan has saved 2,300 lives in our state.

Mike Turner is the program supervisor for PORT Human Services, a Greenville opioid treatment program. This is where abusers can get methadone to quell their cravings for heroin.

"There have been a lot of people who overdosed on this combination of Heroin and Fentaynol," he explains. "Fentanyl is a powerful painkiller, it's an opiate also."

CDC statistics shows opioid use in U.S. was the result of about 28,650 deaths. That number has quadrupled since 2000, it's an increase for 200 percent.

Studies show people get hooked first on prescription pain pills, prescribed to them from their doctors.

For Merle, he sold his belongings to support his drug habit. He almost lost his family and almost lost his life.

He overdosed twice with his family finding him unconscious in his shop. They made it to the hospital in time for them to bring him back and Merle says he wasn't going back for a third time.

"That time was when I felt God had given me a second chance, that's when I came to the clinic here and they sent me to Walter B. Jones," says Merle.

Today he's still in recovering from heroin and alcohol abuse at PORT services.

"I got seven years clean from alcohol, the drugs, the opioids," he explains. "Heroin, it's been a total of six years."

Everyday he's rewriting his story on a life without an addiction to drugs.

Merle says he is so passionate about helping others because a teen once told him that it was easier to get a bundle of heroin than a six pack of beer.

If you know someone suffering from addiction and needs help, click on the links on the right-hand side of your page.