Oklahomans Fall Victim To Opioid Crisis

Tuesday, September 5th 2017, 4:53 pm
By: Karl Torp

There's a new push in our state and around the country for people to fully understand the dangers of prescription pills. Painkillers are the leading cause of overdoses in Oklahoma

There's nothing mundane about mornings with family for L.J. Clark. These moments are forever cherished thanks to the dark days never forgotten.

"I started buying them off a guy in school - in the 8th grade? The 8th grade," he said.

The pills took a hold that Clark couldn't shake for more than decade. 

"Kind of a sense of ease and comfort, kinda of a warm sensation that made me okay with everything going on," the former addict said.

What was going was a the birth of a son. 

"That relationship was pretty much none existent for a long time," he said. 

Other relationships soon too fell victim an opioid addiction.

"Every morning that I woke up, that's all I thought about," said L.J. Clark. "My grandpa was on his death bed, and he had hospice at his house and I went in there and stole his whole prescriptions of Lortabs while he was dying."

Clark too though was dying - at a rate health experts know all too well.

"Prescription drugs kill more Oklahomans than motor vehicle crashes," said Avy Redus of the Oklahoma Health Department.

That became the case in just the past 7 years, according to the Health Department. Opioids accounted for approximately 346 overdose deaths in Oklahoma in 2015, the latest numbers released.

"So because these medications are FDA approved - they are prescribed by a physician - there is an assumption that they can be taken under any circumstance," Redus said. 

Avy Redus with the Health Department says alternative therapies are now being pushed instead of pills.

"The prescribing of opioid has gone down slightly, and we've seen deaths slightly decrease," she said.

A task force to reduce opioid related death was formed in 2012 in Oklahoma. Educating the public and providers like physicians became a priority.

"Don't be an accidental dealer by allowing easy access to your medications," Redus said.

She advises people to better secure any medications they have and warns how devious an addict can be.

"Even if you are selling your home- its not uncommon people to steal medication from your medicine cabinet while they are looking through your home," she said.

The Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics shows how you where you can safely get rid of excess medication at drop boxes located at a number of law enforcement agencies.

Meanwhile L.J. Clark keeps his own mug shot on his phone. Around 30 times in and out of jail brought him to rehab.

"I hurt the ones that are closest to me," he said.

It took six times for sober to stick, but Clark has been clean now for two and a half years.

"I feel better than I've ever felt," he said.

Now those dark days serve as more than memory but also as a father's first-hand lesson.

"That's an experience I'll get to share with him- when he's ready," Clark said.

"I'm free, and I haven't felt that way in a long time."