More young Kansans fighting opioid addictions

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) - Back in October, President Donald Trump declared a national public health emergency to combat the opioid crisis.

Experts say more than 2 million Americans have become dependent on or have abused prescription pain pills and street drugs. The issue is also causing a problem here in Kansas.

On Wednesday, Sedgwick County Commissioners will vote on whether to declare the opioid crisis a public nuisance.

Officials say they're seeing more young people become victims of the addiction.

Audrey Evans recalls the first time she had opioids after she was prescribed them to treat a leg injury.

It was after this that she wanted to experiment more, and her life quickly spiraled out of control.

"I was a straight A student, I graduated with honors, I was a bookworm I was going to be a doctor," said Audrey Evans, Maize.

But these goals were put on hold for 22-year-old Audrey. She was just a teen when she started using heroin.

"That is the first time I shot up I was 18 years old and my life quickly, quickly, quickly went very much downhill," said Evans.

Evans says she lost friends, family, even her home.

"It got to the point where I was living in my car on and off for two years," said Evans.

It wasn't until her family called police and encouraged her to get treatment that she started a new life. She checked in to a treatment facility for 23 days, but says her addiction made it difficult.

"Terrible, terrible, terrible withdrawals, mental, physical, emotional," said Evans.

But she says it was worth it, and after a year in a sober home, she is now living with family and enjoys what she used to.

She says she's thankful to be alive, but not all youth are so lucky.

"We have had young people overdose and die after they leave treatment, and they relapse," said Cindy Bauman, Wichita Valley Hope Program Director

A Valley Hope study in the last year shows it's becoming more likely for people age 18 to 25 to receive treatment for opiate-related addictions. It also shows a decrease in the average age of opiate users.

"These young people tell me is do not only do they buy it on the street but they will go to family members homes, look in their medicine cabinets," said Bauman.

Bauman said she wants people to know there are treatment options and youth should not allow their addictions to hold off their futures.

Audrey says more acceptance of the problem, may help others.

"Understood that this is a disease that my brain is physically different than a normal person's because of this would be very encouraging," said Evans.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an addiction, there is help out there.

You can call Valley Hope at 800-544-5101, or the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Helpline at 1-800-662-help.

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