GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. — As the country and Guilford County continue to face an increase in opioid overdoses and deaths, a Guilford County family is facing the problem head-on after the loss of their mother.
“I went to the grocery store and I came home and she was unconscious,” said Angel Caddell, “and you could only imagine the thoughts. If I came home 20 minutes earlier, would she still be here today?”
Angel and Molly Caddell said they’ve never had to face the struggle of losing someone to an opioid overdose until their mother passed away in November. Paramedics used naloxone on their mother but she eventually went to the hospital and ended up on a respirator. On November 24th, Christy Caddell died at the age of 41.
“I feel like the pain is silenced,” Angel said, “maybe to some (people), it's a sense of embarrassment. It’s not an embarrassment, addiction is a struggle. It’s a disease. It is a disease and eats you alive.”
The Caddells said their mother struggled on and off with addition over the past five years. Angel said she believed her mother was doing better, until she took one final dose.
“It just took this one day and too much of it,” said Angel.
The sisters want people to see those facing addiction as human beings and help them through their struggles.
“Just because they are an addict doesn’t mean they are a nobody, they are a somebody, they are a human being, they have feelings, they have a heart and they just need someone to be there for them,” said Angel. “Addiction is not the road they want to be on forever but it just helps them with the pain and they just need someone to help them, just listen to their cry for help, don’t push them away.”
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Leaders with the Guilford County Department of Public Health said the opioid epidemic is a widespread problem.
“Sometimes we like to characterize those who are in this situation a certain way,” said Anita Ramachandran, the Assistant Health Director with the Guilford County Department of Public Health. “The truth of the matter is it could be anyone. It could be someone in your family who is having an issue with opioid misuse, it could be your neighbor (…) it could be a colleague.”
Ramachandran said the health department partners with several local organizations like the Guilford County Solution to the Opioid Problem (GCSTOP) to try and tackle the issue. She also says fentanyl laced with other substances, like heroin, is increasingly becoming a problem.
“The issue is just so critical also because now with everything that’s on the street, being sold, whoever is providing these products, they are also mixing other things into the drugs,” Ramachandran said. “Everyone has heard about fentanyl (but) the issue as you don’t know how much fentanyl, what kind of fentanyl is it.”
For the Caddells, they hope people have more compassion toward those struggling and those in the grips of addiction know they matter.
“What if I talked to (my mother) more? Or what if I had asked her what she really needed instead of pushing her to the side? Because that’s what we tend to do with addicts we tend to push them to the side like they’re not important, but they are very important,” said Angel Caddell.
The Guilford County Department of Public Health wants everyone to have access to naloxone since you never know when you could come across someone suffering an overdose.
The Caddells said they also want to support other families struggling with addiction. Angel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.