Advocates share experience with opioid addiction

Image Source: USDA / MGN
Image Source: USDA / MGN(KALB)
Published: Oct. 25, 2018 at 6:37 PM CDT
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One New Hampshire lawmaker stopped in Appleton on Thursday to discuss local stories in the opioid crisis.

Senator and former governor Maggie Hassan (D) is learning how opioid addiction affects people across the country.

As Action 2 News reported earlier this week, the number of drug overdoses in the United States appears to be leveling off. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) finds about 70,000 people died of drug overdoses last year, a 10 percent increase from 2016. It also found a plateau in those numbers near the end of 2017.

Two local women say even if overdose deaths are leveling, losing one life is one life too many.

Natalie Coenen knows the consequences of opioid addiction firsthand.

“At my time as a kid, I was insecure and didn't feel right,” said Coenen. “I needed an outlet, and instead of finding a healthy outlet I took it out on drugs and alcohol.”

She used painkillers and morphine before turning to heroin. Coenen still remembers the moment she hit rock bottom.

“I was naked in a jail holding cell, and Megan had just passed away,” she said. “It was just becoming too real, and I remember saying, ‘I'm going to end my life because it's so miserable’ or ‘I'm going to start doing something differently.’”

Coenen got help and has been clean for more than three years; however, her friend Megan never got that chance.

“On April 14, 2015, at 5 o'clock, I received a phone call that no parent ever wants to receive,” said Bev Kelley-Miller, Megan’s mother. “That's when I learned that my daughter, who was 22 at the time, she was my baby, had died from a drug overdose.”

The two opioid addiction stories have two different outcomes. Now, both women are sharing what happened to anyone willing to listen.

“I didn't have the power to save my daughter, right? I didn't know she went back to using,” said Kelley-Miller. “But what I do have the power to do is to share her story.”

“When they speak up, and when they tell their story, it helps other people, their fellow citizens who maybe don't have a family member who is impacted in this way, doesn't have this illness, it helps people understand this illness,” said Sen. Hassan. “It helps people understand that this is a disease that impacts people from all walks of life.”

Hassan plans to take what she learned in the meeting back to New Hampshire to help those in her state also impacted by addiction.