PHOENIX (KSAZ) - Opioids continue to be a dangerous killer in Arizona. According to the Arizona Department of Health Services, there have been 564 opioid related deaths since June.
That equates to two people a day dying from opioid overdoses. Now, a task force is hoping to diminish these numbers. Meanwhile, a person who is recovering from an opioid addiction is revealing his story.
"When I was 16, I went to a party, and my friend offered me a pill and I didn't know what it was," said Joshua Snow, a patient at the Scottsdale Recovery Center. "He just told me it was going to make me feel good, so I said, 'yeah, why not', and it spiraled down from there."
That one pain pill sent Snow down a dangerous path.
"The first time I got physically addicted, I was 17 in high school and I didn't have it one morning and I didn't think anything of it," said Snow. "It was like, 'whatever' and I had the worst panic attack I've ever had in my life. It felt like I was having a heart attack."
That opioid addiction turned into heroin and cocaine. Snow overdosed three times, and now, at the age of 21, he is getting help at the Scottsdale Recovery Center.
Unfortunately, stories like Snow's are all too common.
"I was, I guess, surprised at how many kids think it's OK to do it, and how many think it's OK to take more of a dose of a perscription that's dangerous, without thinking of the consequences of it," said Dr. Sandra Indermuhle. She's part of an opioid abuse task force with Dignity Health, who partnered with Barrow Neurological Center to survey teens about opioid abuse.
They found one quarter of teens who had been prescribed pain meds admitted to using them without a doctor's consent. Six in ten of those teens said they used the pills to make themselves feel better.
Snow hopes that by sharing his story, he could save a life.
"It's the worst the feeling in the world, not knowing how to make yourself better, other than use something," said Snow. "It's a terrible feeling."
So far, that newly formed task force has educated about 4,000 junior high and high school students about the deadly effects of opioids. Officials say education is key.