PHOENIX (KSAZ) - Recently released numbers show Arizona is seeing a big increase in drug overdose deaths, in the last year alone.
According to statistics, the number of opioid-related deaths in the state rose 16% in 2016, and a recovering addict said there are many factors to the increase. He said getting the drugs is becoming easier and easier, and the government can no longer sweep the problem under the rug, and needs to take action fast.
"[I] abused them," said Marcus Weisbly. "They weren't regulated. They were easily and readily available."
Weisbly, currently 27, began using pain killers when he was 13. His painkiller addiction quickly turned into a heroin addiction, and he said getting the drugs wasn't hard.
"As easy as walking into a store to get a soda," said Weisbly, who is clean now, thanks to his time at Crossroads Treatment Center. Weisbly decided to get help after his fiance overdosed and died.
Weisbly said he knows how difficult it is to kick the habit, but he hopes others will reach out for help.
"There's another way of life that is far greater than your wildest dreams, and it doesn't involve being intoxicated," said Weisbly, who now helps mentor other addicts at crossroads treatment center.
State officials have said they've made fighting this epidemic top priority. Governor Doug Ducey has put a limit on prescription painkillers for people on Medicaid, and Phoenix has implemented a program that allows addicts to turn in their drugs and get treatment.