Understanding opioid abuse

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WATERTOWN, S.D. (KELO) — On average, 130 Americans die each day from an opioid overdose, according to the CDC. 

A Watertown eye doctor who once abused pain meds says she wouldn’t be alive today if it weren’t for her arrest in 2016.

Melanie Weiss has since gone through treatment and served her sentence. 

And she’s back to seeing patients at her clinic in Watertown. 

But at the peak of her addiction, Weiss says she was taking 40 to 45 pills a day. 

Weiss’ addiction to pain medication left her with a skewed sense of reality. 

“I truly felt that they were making me a better person. I was a better mom; I was a better wife; I was a better eye doctor; I was a better community member; I was a better neighbor; I was a better boss,” Weiss said.

But that wasn’t the case. 

The disease ultimately landed her in the back of a police car after she went into someone’s home to look for pills. 

“When you’re in the depth of that your brain does not allow you to understand or see that those things are not okay,” Weiss said. 

Malia Holbeck is the manager of the Avera Addiction Recovery Program. 

She can’t talk specifically about Weiss; case, but she did explain opioids give our brain a pleasurable effect. 

“What happens when we take a drug or we take an opioid, it actually floods the brain with this chemical so we get more of that effect than we would ever be able to produce naturally. It’s that effect that people want to be able to experience over and over again,” Holbeck said.

And if you start to become addicted, you may do things that are out of character. 

“That disease or that addiction starts to send very strong message saying that, ‘This drug is going to be the most important thing that you need right now over everything else that is going on,” Holbeck said. 

“I’ve had people ask me, ‘Didn’t you feel guilty going into people’s homes and going through cabinets and taking stuff?’ Nope, not at the time I didn’t. Now, it disgusts me, but at the time I absolutely did not feel guilty,” Weiss said. 

If you’re struggling with opioid abuse, you can find resources here. 

Now, there’s a second part to Weiss’ story. 

She’s now using her own journey to give others hope. 

Be sure to watch Vision of Hope on Eye on KELOLAND at 10. 

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


 

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