North Texas faces opioid crisis

Verify: What is a public health emergency?

GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas -- As a teenager, Mike Munzell seemed to have everything going for him. He was a high school athlete in Virginia who entered college for engineering.

But then, he became addicted to drugs, trying everything from marijuana to K2 to pain pills. Eventually, he started shooting heroin.

"I started breaking into cars, stealing from my parents, stealing from everybody," he said. He'd do whatever it took to get money to fuel his addiction.

Until one night, he was arrested for stealing a pack of cigarettes. "They searched my car and found loads of stolen stuff," said Munzell.

Four days later, he ended up in Greenhouse Treatment Center in Grand Prairie, a residential rehab facility.

"Being here, in a safe place, in a controlled environment, it really did save my life," said Munzell.

He is one of the lucky ones, but an alarming number of people are dying from an opioid overdose or ending up in emergency rooms like Dr. Glenn Hardesty's at Texas Health Resources.

"We are seeing more and more [emergency department] encounters related to opioid abuse, overdose, or seeking, that is definitely on the rise," said Hardesty.

Ten to 20 percent of Hardesty's patients fall into that category, he said. The overdoses are especially tough.

"They're not breathing, they're very flaccid, they're like a wet rag," said Hardesty.

More and more, Hardesty said, patients come in too late to be saved because their friends tried an urban myth first that only makes matters worse.

"The patient is blue and cold. For some reason, they like to submerge them in a bathtub with ice water," said Hardesty.

The one thing that can reverse the effects of an overdose is called Narcan, available at hospitals and now widely available over the counter at drugstores. Walgreens recently announced it would stock it at all of its locations.

Hardesty believes a public health emergency should have been declared a long time ago, but is glad President Donald Trump declared one Thursday.

"If this casts more of a light on the situation, I'm ecstatic about it," Munzell said.

"There are many people that don't realize how bad it is," said Joel Klein, Greenhouse Treatment Center CEO. "It's going to affect all of us. If we don't get this under control, all of us will suffer, not just economically, it costs us in human suffering and pain."

As Munzell, he's now working at the treatment center that helped him get sober two years ago, helping others do the same.

"If you discovered the cure for cancer, like could you keep that to yourself? Probably not, right?" said Munzell, with a smile.

He has recently been considering going back to school to get his engineering degree.

© 2017 WFAA-TV


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