KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — In October, the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services received a new five-year, $3 million grant to support families and children affected by opioids and addiction. That many could help some families in East Tennessee stay together and endure hardship.
In the first two days of November 2022, Knox County already saw two deaths due to suspected drug overdoses. So far this year, 409 people have died due to suspected drug overdoses. Each of those people had families, personalities and lives.
Brittany Asher faced addiction after graduating from high school with honors and attending college. She was injured in a car crash and was prescribed painkillers — Opana, a kind of opiate.
"Eventually, I had started abusing them and dabbling into other things," she said. "I wish I could have done a lot of things different, but I can't."
She said she lost everything to her addiction, including her three boys. Her brother also struggled with similar kinds of substance abuse. Eventually, she said that the addiction threatened his life. An infection ran through his whole body, and doctors had to amputate his legs to save him.
"All the drugs in the world, they wouldn't have been enough. They wouldn't have," she said.
After seeing her brother's battle with addiction, she started to change her life.
"They were telling us to take him off life support and all that, and my little niece just begged me. She said, 'Sissy, I know you are so tired. Please come home with me and mama and get clean.' And, I did," she said.
From there, she started working through a 12-month recovery program with the New Beginnings Transitional Living for Women. It was started by Katina Woods, who lost her brother to an overdose. She said she teaches recovery as a way of life.
"You've got to be completely substance-free," said Woods. "The goal is to have enough recovery under your belt and the goal is to be in a type of situation that you will be able to walk away from."
Anyone who wants help to recover from addiction can reach out to The Tennessee Redline at 800-889-9789. Another place to start is the Metro Drug Coalition in Knoxville. You can learn about confidential referrals for treatment by going to its website.