PASCO COUNTY, Fla. — As the State of Florida v. Walgreens trial gets underway, people who have battled addiction are watching and hoping it will make a dent in a crisis that has affected their lives and millions of others.
Justin McPadden is one of them.
“I started when I was really young. My dad was an alcoholic. My dad and my stepdad were huge into drugs. They did it with us because I just wanted to fit in with them," McPadden said.
McPadden said he tried a few drugs when he was a kid, but didn't get addicted. It wasn't until 2011 that he hit the lowest of lows.
“That was the lowest point in my life. 130 pounds soaking wet like I had nothing left. I was completely depleted of everything. I had no family left, no money, no morals. Nothing," McPadden said.
Although McPadden had dabbled in drugs when he was a kid he got his act together at the age of 19, but would soon find himself in the realms of addiction all because of a freak accident.
"I fell two stories. I was on an extension ladder inside of a house and the extension ladder slipped and I went down with it. I smashed down onto a tile floor and I messed up my ankle really, really bad," McPadden said.
His doctor prescribed him sixty Loritab 10 and unknowingly along came addiction.
Loritabs turned to Percocets. Percocets turned to Roxicodone, or Roxies, and Roxies turned to Oxytocin.
“It’s a snowball effect because once you get hooked on them it’s like the only thing that your body actually needs. Your body needs it to function," McPadden said.
He got clean after a few years but then broke his leg and the cycle began again.
"I was homeless on the streets and everything was no holds bar as far as drugs go," McPadden said.
McPadden's story is dark but it's not uncommon.
The latest numbers from the Department of Human and Health Services break it down.
In the past year, 1.6 million people were addicted to opioids. That equates to the entire county of Hillsborough and then some.
- Opening statements begin in Florida v. Walgreens trial over state's opioid crisis
- Opioid deaths skyrocket across US; Tampa Bay one of worst in nation for overdoses
- In-depth: Fighting the deadly growth of opioid overdoses during COVID-19
- Florida sues Walgreens and CVS over opioid crisis
Liz Harden is the Executive Director of BoardPrep Recovery in Tampa and has seen how opiates have evolved.
“There seems to be a never-ending supply of people that become addicted to opiates," Harden said.
In her thirty years of experience, she's seen what drug dependency can do and what can become of it with the right help.
“I think anything we can do to increase awareness is always a good thing. I don’t think any one thing is going to be the panacea to solve the problem at hand, but I think anything we can do to look at accountability," Harden said.
She, like McPadden, is hoping litigation like the State v. Walgreens case will end with monetary wins and new beginnings for recovering addicts like McPadden.
“There’s success in life and I had to really dig deep and find out what success looked like to me. If I went nowhere else right now am I successful? Yes, I am successful right here right now because I found recovery. I am living my best life," McPadden said.
McPadden is one class away from getting his GED and one month away from celebrating his 40th birthday. As he continues his life in recovery he hopes to help others through a podcast to help others battling addiction called, The Hope Shot. It airs every Sunday and Wednesday. With the help of his team, The Hope Shot has turned from a podcast to a nonprofit.
For more information about The Hope Shot, visit thehopeshot.org.