BILLINGS- A panel of experts spoke on drug addiction Thursday night in Billings, saying it is a disease and not a choice.
That was some of the information for a Billings Public Library Civil Conversation at the Royal Johnson Community Room.
The topic was the “Local Impact of Opioids,” but the panel said other drugs may be even more of a problem.
Alcohol, meth and marijuana are the top three for drug addiction, with opioids around fourth or fifth, according to Lenette Kosovich, Rimrock Foundation CEO.
Shelley Thompson, coordinator for the Felony Drug Court in Yellowstone County, said meth makes up about 70 percent and opioids seven percent.
But there is still a concern for opioids.
The experts said it takes understanding and emphathy to help people with addictions.
One woman has been off drugs for three years and graduated from the drug court in Yellowstone County on March 14, 2018.
“It’s about a connection,” said Stacey Schumer, who overcame a drug addiction. “The opposite of addiction is connection. So I’m here to kind of tell my story about it and how I went from not having any hope or faith or anything that was of light to such a bright future.”
“Once we get people into recovery and we do our job, we get them through treatment and we get them through the court,” Thompson said. “Then they’re out in the community and they need to have continued support, continued resources but mostly a connection.”
Dr. Eric Arzubi, a psychiatrist at Billings Clinic, was also on the panel.
In Washington on Thursday, U.S. Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., asked Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar about solutions for meth addiction during a Senate Finance Committee hearing.
He also talked about seeing the impact on families after he recently visited the Rimrock Foundation.
Reporting by David Jay for MTN News