'It consumed me': Houston area facility in focus as opioid overdose odds rise

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- For the first time in history, deaths linked to opioid overdoses are now a cause of death even higher than traffic crashes.

The National Safety Council released the survey that showed the odds of dying from opioid poisoning, or overdose, is 1 in 96. The odds of being killed in a vehicle crash is 1 in 103. CDC numbers show that in Texas in 2016, opioid-related deaths were second only to deaths involving firearms. Homicide was the third leading cause of unexpected death.

The finding that opioids are a growing, deadly addiction is no surprise for Houston Cenikor, which provides counseling and residential treatment for people trying to break their addictions to hydrocodone, heroin, meth, and street drugs that fall under the opioid category.

The local nonprofit started in the early 1990s when cocaine and crack were the drugs of that earlier epidemic. Now it's an opioid crisis that involves more powerful substances, like Kush and synthetic marijuana, which contain toxic ingredients.

"You don't hear about it until somebody famous dies," said Houston Cenikor Director Eugene Hall. "Not until it gets national attention. This has been around for years."

The Cenikor facility in Deer Park treats and counsels several thousand clients a year. Today, Hall said, more of them are being treated for opioid addictions.

Among them is Tyler, who's been in recovery before.

"I now know that I'm an addict," he said.

He said he once had a full football scholarship to Texas A&M, but was introduced to prescription painkillers after a football injury. When the prescriptions ran out, he turned to other sources.

"It consumed me. I was always focused on where I was going to get more, to stay high, " he said.

Now, he is in Cenikor's residential treatment program, focused on learning new healthy habits.

"If I could give anyone out there who's about to take that first pill, I'd tell them to walk away from it. You never know you're an addict until you're pulled in," he said.

Stacy is another Cenikor resident.

"I took meth," she said. "I quit, then I relapsed."

She has been clean since last September, adding that she is "finding faith."

She is also passionate about warning those who are at the same crossroad between destruction and a new beginning.

"Life is so precious, life can have so much more meaning," she said with tears in her eyes. "It's just going to cause you more pain, whatever you're trying to cover up, because that's why we use. And it just makes it worse."

Holly used to work in an office. Her addiction began when a friend offered her a pain pill as a teenager.

"It turned on that addiction switch in me," she said.

Now, she's in recovery once more, and is also a residential client at Cenikor.

"I've lost a lot of friends," she said. "And even if it's not a physical death, it's an emotional death."

For information on Cenikor, which is a non-profit recognized for its recovery services, call 1-888-CENIKOR.

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