Recovering heroin addict shares story to offer hope, inspiration - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

OPIOID EPIDEMIC

Recovering heroin addict shares story to offer hope, inspiration to others

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CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -

The crackdown on prescription painkillers is causing a rise in the use of other drugs.

The TBI is seeing a spike in heroin, cocaine, fentanyl and meth.

A recovering addict who knows the heroin problem firsthand is sharing his story to help others.

Ethan Shaw grew up in a small town and describes his childhood as “perfect.” 

“I had great parents, a really good support system and I had a great church family. When I got older, I realized that I was different than the other people that I went to school with or church with,” said Shaw.

Shaw told Channel 3 that realization is what started his descent into drug addiction.

“My sexuality was something that wasn't accepted in my community so I wanted to escape. I didn't want to deal and I found drugs,’ said Shaw. 

Shaw began taking pills at age 20 and gradually moved to heroin.

READ MORE | Opioid crackdown leading to spike in other drugs

“You have an uncontrollable urge like you can’t stop it. Your mind gets in this cycle and there's nothing you can do to stop it,” he told Channel 3. 

CADAS, a nonprofit alcohol and drug treatment facility in Chattanooga helps people like Shaw.

“We're seeing a whole different demographic now with that which we would have seen 20 or 30 years ago with heroin use,” said Debbie Loudermilk, Director of Outpatient Services at CADAS.

CADAS is treating significantly more men for heroin use in the 18 to 30 age range.

Heroin is a cheaper alternative to pills and easier to get.

“A lot of the people who come into treatment are coerced into treatment one way or another whether it be legal, family, employment,” said Leland Lusk, Primary Counselor for the Medication Assistance Program at CADAS. 

That’s what happened to Shaw. He got arrested for drug paraphernalia and was required by the court system to get help. 

It was the start of a journey that changed everything.

After the required 28-day program, he decided to continue treatment.

“I've learned how to change my perspective and it's been a beautiful thing,” Shaw told Channel 3. 

Now 28, Shaw is sober, has a new job, a new apartment and a new life.

“I needed that darkness in my life so I could grow and so that I could appreciate the light,” said Shaw. 

The Tennessee Department of Health and Safety issued an advisory on fentanyl. Investigators say they’re seeing other drugs laced with the powerful painkiller in unpredictable amounts leading to a higher risk of overdosing.

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