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A Night Near Death | The ‘Heroin Hug:’ The Warmth That Fuels Addiction

If you ask a first responder about overdose calls, they'll likely have a story for you. Or two. Or three. It's not stopping.

FORSYTH COUNTY, N.C. (WFMY) -- It's hard to understand what addiction feels like if you've never been through it.

"I’ve seen it all the way from business executive type people to homeless people," says Forsyth County EMS paramedic Scott Haithcock. "There’s no limits to it and it’s sad when you look in the eyes of a 26-year-old and they feel like they have nothing left. They feel like nobody cares if they live or die."

Related: EXCLUSIVE | A Night Near Death: 12 Hours In An Ambulance Tracking Overdoses With Paramedics

That's the grip addiction has and first responders often have a front row view of the crisis.

"Some of the people I talked to, they call it the heroin hug," Scott explains. "And they said you know, the first time you do it, you just get this secure feeling. It’s almost like a warm embrace, like a hug from your grandma. That’s the way it’s been explained to me. And they said once you feel that you crave it constantly. I can’t imagine being under the control of having to have that."

There was a time when overdose calls were few and far between, but now they've become routine not just in North Carolina but across the country. If you ask a first responder about them, they'll likely have a story for you. Or two. Or three. It's not stopping.

"A 70 year old woman who overdose in the gas station parking lot with her dog in the car," says Forsyth County paramedic Jolene Buyna as she remembers some of her recent calls. "A woman who overdosed in the gas station parking lot with all of her children in the car and she passed out on the floor and they were all crying hysterically and it broke my heart."

Haithcock says he remembers a time where it seemed like every ambulance they had was running an overdose call.

"It was like overdose after overdose after overdose. It was a bad batch of heroin hitting the streets in high point sold to whoever, to whoever to whoever, ended up in Forsyth county and we were like my gosh, not another one. "What is going on here? We couldn’t get a handle on it because we were running so many back to back and I don’t remember how many we had that night but it was several."

Addiction is a revolving door problem that various groups, leaders and people are working to fix.

In 2017, North Carolina lawmakers enacted the STOP (Strengthen Opioid Misuse Prevention) Act.

“The opioid epidemic is tearing families apart all across our state," says Stein said in a 2017 interview. "People are dying every day – and those who live do so in the despair of addiction. We won’t get out of this crisis quickly, but the STOP Act is an important first step."

The law sets a 5-day limit for initial prescription for acute pain and 7-day limit for post-operative pain. It also requires e-prescribing to eliminate prescription pad theft and forgeries and calls for a substance reporting system database to track patient prescriptions.

Another new North Carolina law, enacted in spring 2018, is the HOPE Act. This law aims, in part, to give investigators access to certain prescription data, expand the Controlled Substances Reporting System, and dedicate money to treatment and recovery services as well as Narcan, the overdose reversal drug.

North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein is working to fight the opioid crisis in his capacity as Attorney General. Along with other states, he's brought lawsuits against and he's held roundtables throughout the state to talk about solutions.

"The solution in this crisis is multifaceted," he said in a February 2018 interview. "It requires a comprehensive approach. Prevention, treatment and recovery, and enforcement."

He says too many pills are prescribed to people who don't necessarily need as many as they're given.

"On the treatment and recovery side we just need more facilities. There aren't enough detox places, there aren't enough treatment facilities and too few people who want to help can get the help they need."

As for enforcement, he says drug traffickers need to be held accountable to the misery that they're bringing to the state. When asked about charging drug dealers in the death of people who have overdosed, which is something some county prosecutors have started doing, he says he supports it.

"But for somebody who's crime is their drug use, is their substance abuse it is better if we can connect those people to healthcare and our criminal justice system. That's how we're ultimately going to solve it. I hear from sheriffs, chiefs all the time that we will never arrest ourselves out of this crisis. We have to help people get healthy."

If you or someone you know is suffering from addiction, check out some of these resources below.

SAMHSA’s National Helpline

The SAMHSA’s National Helpline is free, confidential, 24/7, available 365 days a year for treatment referral and information services.

Call 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or visit the online treatment locators.

National Council On Alcoholism And Drug Dependence

24 hour hotline 1-800-622-2255

More Details: National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence

211 Drug Recovery Addiction Hotline

If you or someone you know has symptoms of drug addiction dial 2-1-1 from any cell phone or landline for help. This is a confidential call and you will be connected with an organization that specializes in recovery.

Another number to call 866-401-6342 is a toll free number that is available should your service provider be unable to connect to 2-1-1.

More Details: United Way Substance Abuse Addiction Services

Triad Drug Recovery Addiction Services

Call the Alcohol and Drug Services 1-855-801-9817

Locations in the Triad: ADS

ADS Treatment Programs

Alcohol And Drug Resources & Forms

Opioid Treatment Program List NC

Triad/NC List Drug Substance Abuse Facilities In NC

Caring Services, Inc.

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