Fighting the opioid crisis: A parent's warning for addicts
Long wait times to get into rehab can make it hard for addicts seeking help. Some in the mountains end up trying to do it on their own. It has two parents calling for system wide reforms.
A News 13 investigation found getting help isn't always easy. That's because recovery hasn't really changed since the Vietnam War era when recovery was 28 days. In many cases, that's all insurance still wants to pay for, but opioid addicts said recovery takes more than a month.
Seth Morgan would fish anywhere, but Cane Creek was a favorite. It was a place to think about family, camping, even his daughter Ella, whose name is tattooed on his arm.
“He was excited about his future, he was happy, he was healthy,” his mother Sherry Abbot told News 13.
Seth also struggled with addiction.
“He came home and rolled up his sleeves and I thought I was going to fall on the floor. He had track marks on his arms,” Abbot said.
Two years ago in February, Seth asked for help.
“I very quickly found out there were very few places we could afford or that would take him,” Abbot said. “Or didn't have a long waiting list,” added his stepfather, Rob Abbot.
So, Sherry and Rob watched Seth detox at home before he could get into treatment.
“It's like someone's taking a hammer and beating him with it, and they get nauseous and vomit and diarrhea,” Sherry said.
A relapse in December sent him back to rehab in Florida because nothing in the mountains was available.
“He said, 'I'm not going to live. I want to see my daughter grow up.' There was a change we hadn't seen the two times before,” Abbot said.
Seth stayed sober for 100 days,
“I sent him a text saying, ‘I'm so proud of you, you have no idea. I appreciate you fighting this fight. I know it can't be easy. We're always here for you and we love you.’ And he wrote back and said, ‘I love you, too’,” Abbot recalled.
Six days after that conversation, Seth overdosed.
As the Abbots waited for Seth's remains, “We went to Kennedy Space Center, and we walked around there...we can do those things; we can save these lives," said a tearful Rob Abbot. “We can put a man on the moon, we should be able to help these kids,” added Sherry.
The Abbots said families need more options, shorter waits for treatment, and more oversight in Florida, where recovery's a billion-dollar industry.
“It’s abusing them and profiting from their lives,” Rob said. “They'll pay to fly your kid to their place. You don't have the money to fly them, we'll pay for their airline ticket,” explained Sherry.
The Florida State Legislature and Attorney General are working to limit what they call unlicensed, unregulated, substandard recovery housing that encourages anything but sobriety.
“He would say, 'Well, we're going here because they give us vouchers for food. They give us a gift certificate or a debit card to the grocery store, a gym membership.' And so they lure these kids in, and they're billing their insurance, and they're really not doing anything else. They don't make them get a job,” Sherry told News 13.
The only thing worse than the lack of accountability was the call Sherry got from the coroner in Florida.
“He had no drugs in his system except for fentanyl. There was no heroin. There was no pot,” Sherry said. “Nothing. One hundred percent pure fentanyl,” Rob added.
This sent News 13 to the state crime lab, where you can take an exclusive look at these deadly concoctions peddled everywhere from Florida to mountain streets.
“There's no predictability, not like when you're looking at a pharmaceutical product,” John Byrd, the North Carolina State Crime Lab director, said.
The Abbots' advise parents if you have an addicted child, do your homework now so you've got access to an accredited, reputable facility when it's time to get them help.