Opioid overdoses are straining emergency rooms across the country.
The CDC says ER visits for opioid overdoses rose 30 percent in all parts of the U.S. last year.
Hospital ER’s in Virginia rushed to respond to more than 10,000 opioid overdose cases last year.
Shockingly, 8News found those close calls for the patient are often not a big enough wake-up call for the addict to get help and the next visit is usually their last.
“I started using when I was like 11,” says recovering addict Cameron Moss.
Trying to fit in at Henrico’s Moody Middle School, Moss started smoking weed or popping Xanax from her mother’s medicine cabinet.
“We would all go to school take like 5 or 6 to go to class,” she says.
By high school, she was onto heavy stuff.
“Crystal meth and like molly, heroin,” says Moss.
On her 20th birthday, riding down Interstate 64 with a friend, she had her first overdose.
“He had to pull over onto the shoulder and try to give me CPR,” she recalls.
However, that didn’t scare her into getting clean. She overdosed again two years ago. That time it was on purpose.
“I was medically pronounced dead,” she says.
“They’re probably not going to stop unless they seek treatment,” says Emergency Medical Doctor and Medical Director of the Virginia Poison Control Center Kirk Cumpston.
He says the opioid crisis has put a serious strain on the ER at VCU Medical Center. Opioid overdoses here have more than doubled soaring from 273 in 2015 to 657 OD’s in 2017.
“Unfortunately many of them, once they come back around. They just want to leave and go back out,” says Cumpston.
Like Moss, the hospital estimates 1 in 5 are repeat patients. Unlike Moss, most of the repeat patients die the next time.
“I have lost too many friends in just the last 5 years,” says Moss.
That scared her into getting help.
“Mine is 61 now,” says Moss looking at her phone.
An app is keeping track of her days clean. It’s been more than two months now. She’s been in rehab at The McShin Foundation.
That spike in overdoses has forced ER’s to become a point of referral, trying to get addicts into treatment.
8News is continuing to follow the opioid crisis and we will be looking at how VCU Medical Center is now using the ER to get addicts help.