FOUNTAINDALE, Australia (AP) — On Australia's Central Coast, around two hours north of Sydney, the Ware family is one of thousands across the country now locked in a life-or-death fight against opioid addiction.
Far from America, where the opioid epidemic has left 400,000 dead, Australia is facing its own crisis of surging opioid prescriptions and fatal overdoses . Deb Ware and her 22-year-old son Sam opened their home to The Associated Press to shine a light on the pharmaceutical opioid addiction that has fractured their family.
Sam's addiction began three years ago, after a doctor prescribed him an opioid following a wisdom tooth extraction. He was entranced by the buzz the pills gave him, and wanted more.
The pills were cheap and easy to get. Under the government's subsidized prescription program, each pack only cost Sam a few dollars. And because Australia has no national prescription monitoring system, he was able to collect multiple prescriptions from multiple doctors, virtually unchecked.
His crippling addiction nearly killed him again and again. In the past 12 months, he has overdosed more than 60 times.
In years of diary entries, Deb chronicled her exhausting fight to save him, along with her grief, rage and depression. In her bleakest moment, she considered suicide.
In June, after another overdose, he was placed into a coma for 10 days. Somehow, he survived. But the day after he was released, he went out and got another opioid prescription.
Sam's addiction has destroyed his once-close relationship with Deb. He is homeless now, but unless he agrees to go to rehab, she refuses to let him stay with her.
Sam says he doesn't want to die. But without rehab, Deb fears he will.
For a longer version of Deb and Sam's story, go tot https://www.apnews.com/6aa681081fbf4a3ab0bd3758775e3169
This story, part of the AP's reporting on the global opioid crisis, was produced in partnership with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. The Global Opioids project can be seen here. https://www.apnews.com/GlobalOpioids