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From painkillers to street drugs: 'Turned to heroin when I was 14'

Opioid addiction isn't just a professional interest for Holly Peters, director of intensive services for South Lane Mental Health in Cottage Grove. It's personal. (Still from SBG Photo)

COTTAGE GROVE, Ore. - Opioid addiction isn't just a professional interest for Holly Peters, director of intensive services for South Lane Mental Health in Cottage Grove.

It's personal.

"I started with alcohol when I was about 10 years old," she said. "I was taking some of my dad's opiate prescriptions when i was about 12."

Her father started taking the drugs after an on-the-job injury.

"It becomes kind of competitive, so I had to start getting my opiates off the street and quickly turned to heroin when I was 14," Peters said.

Peters says her addiction was intense, so the remedy had to be intense.

Thanks to a rehab program in Portland, she kicked the opiates, kicked heroin and found her life work helping others do the same.

"It's time that we start thinking about holistic recovery, holistic health," she said. "The medical model includes more than just medication. It's a person problem."

The Centers for Disease Control released guidelines early this year on opioids, discouraging the prescribing of opioids for chronic pain and encouraging patients to use over the counter pain medications instead.

"The vast majority of people with run of the mill chronic low back pain like I have every few weeks, opiates are not the therapy of choice for that," said Dr. Patrick Luedtke with Lane County Public Health.

The epidemic of opioids has grabbed the attention of the White House. Last week, federal leaders from the Department of Health and Human Services announced new 8-point plan to battle the epidemic.

Oregon stands to receive $11 million dollars to expand access to treatment, boost prescription drug monitoring by federal prescribers, and accelerate research on pain and opioid misuse.

A federal pain panel is also charged with coming up with reform ideas.

But Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden fears people on that committee have financial conflicts of interest or ties to the pharmaceutical industry. He's pushing for greater transparency.

"I think we've seen that in a lot of instances too many opioids have been given out--and my concern is that there are some on these panels who in effect, have a vested interest in keeping the status quo that pretty much continues it."

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