The Road to Recovery: Getting off of drugs
Stacey Hampton will tell you that her addiction to opioid pills did not happen overnight, nor did she ever see it coming. She was a star soccer player on a scholarship at North Carolina State University, but one night of partying her junior year lead to what would become 12 years of substance abuse.
"If I could have left me, I would have," Hampton said while sitting on her porch in her Fort Walton Beach home.
The 41-year-old remembers how her passion, sports, became difficult after she started binge drinking. Hampton said that she resorted to steroids to make her failing body feel better, but discovered that upper needed a downer.
"That's when I got involved in opioids and [benzodiazepines] at that point, to deal with coming down from things and to deal with the pain afterward," Hampton said.
That opioid addiction only progressed. She explains how she "doctor shopped," getting pills prescribed to her, hundreds at a time. She said at her worst, she was taking 40 of them a day.
"There wasn't ever really a time, from the time I took my first drink, until the time I got sober in 2008, that I wasn't under the influence of something," Hampton said.
Even with everything that she went through, she calls herself one of the lucky ones. She said with as many opioid pills as she took, she never turned to its street sister, heroin. A trend that law enforcement is seeing all too often.
"We're seeing more of it basically since the Pill Mills got shut down starting in 2010, 2011," said Sergeant Justin Robbins with the Escambia County Sheriff's Office.
In mid-May, the Escambia County Sheriff's Office made their biggest heroin bust in the agency's history. A record 500 grams was seized in Operation Brick house.
"I can't say it's a good thing that we got 500 grams, or a half of a kilo of heroin, because it obviously means that the drug is here to stay," Lieutenant Robert Quinata said.
The cost comparison between opioid pills and heroin is exponential. A person can get high on heroin for the price of a pizza. One tenth of a gram of heroin goes for only $20 on the street. Whereas, a pill, like Oxycodone, each milligram is $1, putting one pill's value typically around $30.
"The ease in obtaining heroin and how it affects the body, such a small amount can actually be lethal," Robbins said.
Unfortunately, it has. WEAR-TV looked into how many heroin related overdose deaths the Florida Medical Examiner's Office dealt with in recent years. In 2014, District One, which covers Northwest Florida, saw 11 deaths because of heroin. The breakdown is as follows:
Escambia County had eight.
Okaloosa County had two.
Santa Rosa County had one.
"For years and years, I have been in narcotic work for a long time, it was very rare that we would ever see heroin," said Sergeant Blake Weekley with the Santa Rosa County Sheriff's Office.
In 2015, the number of heroin overdose deaths in Northwest Florida doubled compared to 2014.
Escambia County had 11, up three.
Santa Rosa County had one again.
Walton County also had one.
Okaloosa County had 12, an increase of 600 percent compared to the previous year.
Hampton is part of the effort to stop the heroin overdoses. She now uses her sobriety to help others find theirs. While she has put the past behind her, she said that there is damage she did that can never be fixed.
"Forgiven myself, I have to say yes," Hampton said. "That took a lot of time. I have a felony conviction for vehicular manslaughter. I killed one of my teammates and close friends."
Watch WEAR Channel Three News on Tuesday at 10 p.m. to find out how Hampton uses her experience of that terrible tragedy to help others in their recovery.