Deadly dangers of prescription painkiller addiction
Susan Overstreet, of Florence, and Martha Armstrong, of Chesterfield, met a few months ago after learning each had loved ones die from prescription drug abuse.
Last May, an accidental overdose of painkillers claimed the life of Overstreet's 25-year-old daughter, Jaycie Alexander.
Overstreet remembers the day her daughter died like it was yesterday.
"I became numb. A feeling that I have never felt before," she said.
Armstrong's mother, Patti Hodge, 64, succumbed to her addiction. Her death was ruled a suicide.
"She had threatened suicide before. It was pretty common. It was almost an attention getter, but I never thought she would actually go through with it," Armstrong said.
Both women say they didn't recognize the signs of prescription drug addiction initially, but eventually became educated about it and realized their loved ones had a problem. Now, they're working together to raise awareness about the dangers of prescription drug abuse.
"In my heart, I had a sick child that needed me the most at the time. So, I had no choice, you know, I had to help. I had to get educated. I had to help her," explained Overstreet.
Armstong said she'll never forget the day her mother came to her job and asked to talk with her.
"She asked me, 'Do you think I use pills too much?' and I said, 'Well, I definitely have some concerns about how many pills that you're on and where you're getting them from. And she said, 'Well, you're basically calling me and addict,' and I said, 'Well, I'm not going to say that, but I'm concerned," explained Armstrong.
Armstrong sent her mother a text message that evening to apologize for hurting her mother's feelings. Armstrong's mother replied by saying she never wanted to see her again.
Armstrong's mother died two days later.
Overstreet said her daughter started abusing prescription pills shortly after she was prescribed Percocet to help with pain from shingles, which she contracted following the birth of her son.
She said Jaycie wanted to win the battle against her addiction, and they did everything as a family to help her.
"She was sick and tired of being sick and tired. She was at her wicks end," Overstreet said.
Jaycie relapsed and ended up in the emergency room after being beat up at a drug house in Florence.
Overstreet said her daughter had morphine in her system when a doctor prescribed more painkillers.
Her daughter died a short time later.
She said Jaycie had seen this doctor before, and he knew she was an addict.
Overstreet has started an online petition asking state legislators to pass a law requiring doctors to drug-test people with addictions before prescribing more pills.
"This time he didn't drug test her, If a drug test would have been done, it would have shown up that she had morphine in her system. And I don't believe that the other medications would have been prescribed because it compromised her life. I feel like if it were a mandatory law, that it would help save lives," said Overstreet.
Armstrong supports Overstreet in her efforts to get a law passed. She's also praying a video she made and posted on YouTube will have some impact on the problem of painkiller addiction. It's titled, "Rebel With a Cause," and in it she shares personal stories and the need to confront prescription drug abuse.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 15,000 people die a year in the United States from overdoses of painkillers.