CHICAGO (CBS)– Opioid-related overdoses kill 83 percent more people compared to 2015–and claim more lives in Cook County than gun violence or car crashes.
The growing opioid crisis has prompted Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart to make a podcast to spread awareness of the dangers of abusing the drug.
Dart debuted the podcast Thursday with the release of his first episode, “Breaking Free: Dispatches from the Opioid Crisis.” He sheds light on the ongoing drug epidemic by interviewing a 24-year-old man battling addiction.
The man, who stays anonymous, discusses the day he nearly died two months ago in a bathroom at the Skokie courthouse. He talked to Dart while incarcerated at the Cook County Jail.
“When I started using addictive substances, I already had an addiction,” he says. “It was the gym and mixed martial arts training–that’s what made me feel good every time.”
His life changed after a gym injury led to a doctor prescribing hydrocodone to treat his pain.
“I was taking it as prescribed, but I did feel the euphoric effects from the medication,” he said. “It feels like you don’t have a worry in the world and you’re surrounded by euphoria.”
Hooked on the feeling, he eventually sought multiple doctors in order to continue getting the powerful painkillers.
He was eventually prescribed Oxycodone, one of the strongest pharmaceutical opioids.
One night, he passed out from a combination of the anti-anxiety medication Xanax and Oxycodone. Both medications suppress the respiratory system, and can cause death when combined.
His mom urged the doctors to stop prescribing the controlled substances.
“My family was really worried and he asked the doctor to stop, but the doctor gave no attention to them,” he said. “When I got out of rehab, I went to the doctor and he continued prescribing the pills.”
It wasn’t long before his pill addiction spiraled into heroin use.
After overdosing on heroin in May of this year, police officers rushed in and administered Naloxone, the drug that reverses the effects of an overdose.
The incident went viral after body cam footage from one of the officers who helped save him was posted online.
During the 16-minute podcast, the man admits to overdosing 14 times.
“This crisis touches the lives of so many – almost everyone knows someone struggling with an opioid addiction,” Dart said in a statement. “An important step to fixing this crisis is understanding those who struggle with it. I hope this podcast opens eyes and minds to how easily an opioid addiction can happen and how hard it can be to stop.”
The once-per-month podcast is part of the Sheriff’s Office’s Opioid Addiction Recovery program, which advocates for community-based treatment.