It's estimated that 12 people overdose on heroin or similar drugs every day in Jacksonville. Many of them are given a second chance and that’s when treatment could mean the difference between life and death.
Dozens of drug addiction experts from across the First Coast discussed this topic Saturday morning at a seminar held at the ALOFT hotel in Tapestry Park.
Former drug addict Richard Preston is now at the frontlines of combating drug addiction by telling his journey to recovery.
“I had my first drink at the age of 6, it was an instant love affair,” said Preston.
He shared his mug shot from 12 years ago. He was barely recognizable.
“My drug of choice was alcohol," Preston said. "It lead into marijuana, cocaine and then crack. I became homeless, lost all my family, my friends. I was living in the woods of Jacksonville."
He was invited to speak at a Opiate Addiction Seminar put on my a Canadian-based rehab facility, Trafalgar Residence. Organizers said they chose Jacksonville to host a seminar because they read about the city’s opioid problem and wanted to help.
They’re are right to say so. Last year in Duval County, 500 people died from drug overdoses.
Preston shared the advice he gives families struggling with how to embark on helping a loved one get clean. A pathway to peace he calls it which he has written a book about called "Serenity Granted, Accepting Hardship as a Pathway to Peace."
“We hear a lot of times tough love," Preston said. "I don’t like the term but you do have to let that person be as uncomfortable in their addiction as they can be."
But also realizing that while in his mug shot, he didn’t look like himself, opioid addiction can have no face.
“It can be doctors, nurses and executives," Preston said. "It typically begins with someone taking a prescription pill they found in someone’s medicine cabinet."
Meanwhile, the city recently approved a 1.5 million dollars drug intervention program offering addicts who have just overdosed a chance to enter rehab when they’re being treated in hospitals.