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Knoxville Woman in Addiction Recovery Shares Power and Value of Naloxone

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) - The U.S. life expectancy is dropping and according to a new study, the mortality rate is on the rise. The Centers for Disease Control and Preventionsaying a person born last year can only expect to live 78.6 years. That's a decrease of .1-percent from 2016.

CDC researchers say the opioid epidemic has a lot to do with that, there were more than 70,000 drug overdose deaths last year alone which is a new high.

In Knox County, 293 people fatally overdosed in 2017 and the District Attorney's Office reporting that number keeps going up year to year. So far in 2018, there have been 265 suspected overdose deaths in our area.

A big way Knoxville Police and law enforcement across the country are fighting the crisis is by carrying naloxone or Narcan. That's the drug that reverses the effects of an opioid overdose.

"It potentially saves a life and that's what we need. That's what we're here to do. We're here to save lives, keep the community safe and if that's what we need to do, if we need to carry naloxone and we have it available to us, we're going to do that," said Knoxville Police Chief Eve Thomas.

45 people have received naloxone so far this year between Jan.1 through Nov. 20, according to KPD. That number is actually down compared to the exact same timeframe in 2017, where KPD reported 69 people having received the anti-opioid overdose medication.

The Metro Drug Coalition also recently shared that 1,200 people received naloxone in Knox County in 2017.

WATE 6 On Your Side sat down with a Knoxville woman with a substance use disorder who says naloxone and Narcan not only save lives, they can change one.

Jessica Stanley often looks at a side-by-side picture of herself - one is her jail mug shot.

"I was probably at the darkest place in my addiction and this was actually the day before I had gotten administered Narcan," she said.

That picture is hard to look at, but Stanley says it's a form of motivation because the other picture marks her one-year anniversary in sobriety.

Today, this young mom is two-and-a-half years into her recovery journey. Stanley says she started using at 13 years old and a few months before entering treatment, she received a dose of naloxone.

"I actually had overdosed that morning but I was still functioning. I got in my vehicle and I realized something was going on with me. I thought I was about to die and so I pulled over at a gas station. I fell asleep with my foot on the brake and the other on the gas. I woke up to someone administering Narcan and getting pulled out of my vehicle."

Throughout Stanley's addiction, she says she received three doses of this life-saving antidote.

"I got to the point where I was suicidal and I really just had like a spiritual awakening and wanted to change my life for myself and my child," she added.

Today, Stanley says she's trained and carries a naloxone kit in her car just in case she encounters someone overdosing.

"If they end up turning their life around, I feel like every dose administered is worth it," she says.

Stanley now works at Cornerstone of Recovery and hopes all of us realize the power and value of naloxone, "My life used to be very very black and dark. I don't think there was even a shade of gray spot for me. I was always just hiding emotions and today I would describe it in so many beautiful colors."

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