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The cost of overcoming an opioid addiction

Mollie Owens lost her mother to the opioid epidemic. Now, she's watching loved ones pay hundreds every month for treatment.

GRAINGER COUNTY, Tenn. — In February 2012, 15-year-old Mollie Owens lost her mother to the opioid epidemic.

"My mother actually committed suicide at the age of 48," she said. "Basically, her whole life had been nothing but addiction."

Seven years later, Mollie is helping family and friends in Grainger County through the recovery process. She wants the community to understand the importance of helping others.

"Since I was 15, I've lived a life without a mother due to a disease that never got proper treatment," Mollie said. "She ended up coming back home and trying to just quit everything on her own."

Quitting cold turkey can be very challenging, especially because of withdrawal symptoms, according to a report by the Pew Charitable Trust

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But the stigma surrounding addiction and cost of treatment problems they knew of prevented Mollie's mother from getting help.

"Seeing my mom go through all of that now, it's given me a purpose to want to help people never get in that situation," she said. "Because this isn't a disease that affects just the person. It affects every person they come in contact with."

The Pew study also found medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is the most effective way of combating an opioid use disorder.  

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"Without this medicine, you're literally in withdrawals," Mollie said. "You are sick. You are in aches and pains worse than the flu, times ten."

Still, the cost of medication-assisted treatment prevents many people from seeking help. In addition to prescriptions like suboxone or methadone, recovering addicts must receive mandated therapy and doctor appointments.

"Right now they pay $671 a month," Mollie said, showing us receipts for therapists and doctors. 

It's a cost the National Institute on Drug Abuse studied in 2018. Its data revealed the average monthly cost ranges from $460 to $1,176.50. 

"All the hard money you work for, no matter how you have to get it, turns around," Mollie said. "You have to use it just to survive."

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She hopes that by erasing the stigma around opioid addiction, treatment will become more accessible and affordable to anyone in need. 

"We're all human and we are mess up and we all have problems," Mollie said. "But you have a disease and you just need help and if we start treating it that way, I feel like it'd be a lot easier on everybody."