BRANFORD, Conn. (WTNH)– Amy Johansson, of Branford, spent years as a psychiatric nurse helping people before there even was an opioid crisis. Then she lost her son to drugs and took her fight to the next level.
“I’ve been doing de-toxes,” Johansson said. “I’ve worked at private in-patient hospitals.”
Then her grown son Eric started getting involved with alcohol, and then harder drugs.
“And he had a substance-induced suicide,” said Johansson. “As a parent, your heart breaks. You’re never the same again.”
He was just 24-years-old. In the 6 years since, Johansson has used that heartbreak to do some good. She started the group Smile Anyway that tries to educate families about substance abuse and help those who are dealing with it. It is a problem that keeps growing
“I know of three families last week that lost a loved one,” said Johansson.
According to the state medical examiner, there were 298 opioid overdose deaths in 2012. That climbed to 513 in 2014. 861 two years later, and the deaths are projected to top one thousand for the first time this year. The main culprit is fentanyl.
Only 14 people died from a fentanyl overdose in 2012. It crept up to 75 in 2014, jumped to 483 in 2016 and is project at 846 for this year. Compared to the lethal dose of heroin, the lethal dose of fentanyl is tiny, and now, Johansson says she is seeing a new danger – carfentanyl. Just a tiny trace can be lethal.
Johansson says, if a loved one is struggling. take action immediately.
“I would recommend them getting educated,” Johansson said. “I would recommend having their loved one, their child talk to someone. I put people in contact with therapists that take all kinds of insurances.”
And while awareness keeps growing, the opioid crisis is growing faster than the institutions in place to deal with it.
“And there’s long waits for these long term facilities for people who need them, or they’re just not good,” Johansson said. “Something has to change.”
Just like News8 is doing in November, her group puts on a music festival. It’s called Love is Louder and it just happened three weeks ago. They do lots of other activities and you can find out more here.