Lawmakers working to fix 'heroin epidemic' - WFSB 3 Connecticut

Lawmakers working to fix 'heroin epidemic'

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Lawmakers held a forum Thursday in New Haven to address a 'heroin epidemic.' (WFSB photo) Lawmakers held a forum Thursday in New Haven to address a 'heroin epidemic.' (WFSB photo)

In the past year, more than 200 people have overdosed from heroin in Connecticut, according to lawmakers. That has them looking for solutions.

A lot of those people were hooked on painkillers first but made the decision to switch to opiates.

"We know that many people who are chronic users and addicted to pain medicine often switch to heroin because it's often cheaper on the street than prescription medication," said Michael Bottichelli, the acting director of the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy.

Lawmakers have been working with a recovering drug addict, Eric Burdett, who's been clean for just under two years. Together, they hoped to crack what they called "a heroin epidemic."

Burdett said he was an addict for more than eight years. He said his addiction started innocently but grew out of control. He shared his story with Eyewitness News and law officials.

"It started out very slow, once every month at a party," he explained. "Then over time, over the next eight years, it became more and more steady until it was out of control and I was committing crimes and lying to support my addiction."

Lawmakers and Bottichelli are trying to use Burdett's story to help get to the bottom of the opiate problem.

"We want to give people hope, we want people to know there is a life on the other side of addiction and with good treatment and care, people can live full, productive, and happy lives," Bottichelli said.

Bottichelli said he's been a recovering addict for more 24 years himself.

At the talks in New Haven, officials discussed working to reduce the stigma surrounding addiction and treat it as a chronic illness. The goals would be to let people know about the good Samaritan law, which allowed people to call for help and not get in trouble if they see someone overdosing. They also want to make the anti-overdose drug Narcan more accessible.

Officials said Narcan can restore breathing to someone overdosing if the person can get to it fast enough. Rep. Elizabeth Esty was working with the Food and Drug Administration to make Narcan more available to the public and easier to administer.

"If it's 2 a.m. and you know your child may have an addiction problem, you want to be able to have that right there in the kitchen cabinet to grab it and save that life," Esty said.

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