Hooked: A story of addiction

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ROCHESTER, Ill. (WAND)- Jennifer Bertoni remembers when her battle with addiction began.

“When I was about 28 years old, I had a tooth that was hurting and had a dentist prescribe me vicodin,” Bertoni said. “Something just switched in my brain, and it got so bad that, for 20 years, that drug was the only thing that was important to me was important to me, and all I had to do was go ask for it."

Through the years, Bertoni asked her doctors and ER workers for painkillers. When those supplies stopped, she bought the drugs off the streets.

“It feels so good. That's how it starts off,” Bertoni said. “After a while, you're starting to take it to not be sick, because your body has gotten used to it.”

Public health officials and scholars say a growing number of people in Illinois are addicted to opioid drugs.

"For people who are in end-stage cancer or in severe, severe pain, opioids are literally a Godsend,” said Dr. Nirav D. Shah, Director of the Illinois Department of Public Health. “However, if misused or prescribed inappropriately, individuals can become dependent upon them, what we now know or call Opioid Use Disorder."

“Opioid use disorder is exploding in the United States,” said Dr. Jerry Kruse, dean of the SIU School of Medicine. “"It starts with prescription pain medications like oxycodone. They are available, they are relatively expensive. They're produced in large quantities and they're distributed in large quantities."

Dr. Kruse said although most doctors prescribe opioid drugs responsibly, some prescribe more than they should. He also said those medications are often used in emergency situations and are sometimes shared within families, factors that lead to more dependence.

Last year, Bertoni found help for her addiction.

“I wanted my kids. I wanted my grandbaby. I wanted my parents in my life, and I wanted to be in the moment and know what was going on in that moment,” Bertoni said. “That's why I finally surrendered."

Bertoni said she sought treatment and has relied on support from Narcotics Anonymous. She said she hopes to join with other recovering addicts to help keep others from becoming addicted.

“I know I'm only one person, but I've got other recovering addicts that are willing to come together and help, but we've got to get going,” Bertoni said. “We've got to get started somehow, and I think that's going to make such a big difference."

For resources on addiction and opiate abuse, click here.

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