EDITOR'S NOTE: Today is the first of a three-part series examining how the opioid crisis has affected Texarkana. Today's stories offer an overview of the ground covered in the coming days, a woman whose obsession with pain pills and then other drugs led to incarceration and a look at how local doctors are curbing misuse and abuse of opioids. Sunday's stories highlight the surge of prescriptions written for opioids and how people's usage affects the court system and law enforcement. Monday's stories will examine local treatment methods for those addicted to opioids and highlight a former nurse who has had the unconditional support of her family through her struggles to beat the addiction.
While the opioid crisis grips the nation, Texarkana is not immune to the allure and pitfalls of drugs in this class.
The problem here doesn't compare to some areas of the country, but is still an issue local officials are addressing.
Unlike many other addictions that start with illegal activity, most of those addicted to opioids started out with a precription from a trusted family physician.
"This just didn't happen in the past year or two. I've seen a shift from street drugs to pharmaceuticals as long as 10 years ago when I was still a prosecutor," said Carlton Jones, an Arkansas circuit judge who serves Miller and Lafayette counties and presides over a drug court.
Opioids are generally intended to be used as painkillers. In most cases, taking the prescribed dose is the way it begins. The drugs create feelings of euphoria, but as patients' tolerance to the drugs increases, those feelings fade. Patients must take more and more to get the same effect.
In reality, those phenomenal feelings are short-lived, as so much is lost in the process: the trust of family and friends, freedom, jobs and relationships.
Those on the frontlines of the issue will tell you the faces of the epidemic would surprise you.
One official calls opioid addiction "an equal-opportunity disease," as it affects people from every walk of life and socioeconomic class.
"I think the general public would be surprised to see a composite of what our patients look like," said Anne Saqer, operations coordinator for Arkansas Treatment Services. "We treat people from every walk of life and socioeconomic class business owners, white-collar professionals, food-service workers and even other health care providers. Opioid addiction is an equal-opportunity disease and respects no socioeconomic boundaries."