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Over 100,000 died from drug overdoses in 2021, majority were fentanyl related

Waco-Temple-Bryan KBTX-TV logo Waco-Temple-Bryan KBTX-TV 5/11/2022 Caleb Britt
Local organization hoping to address drug addiction in the Brazos Valley and beyond. © Provided by Waco-Temple-Bryan KBTX-TV Local organization hoping to address drug addiction in the Brazos Valley and beyond.

COLLEGE STATION, Texas (KBTX) - The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that nearly 107,000 Americans died of a drug overdose last year with 66% of those deaths related to opioids like fentanyl.

JoAnn Willis of Iola used meth and pharmaceuticals with opioids for a majority of her 35-year drug addiction journey. She says ending an addiction isn’t simple, it can consume a person’s body, which makes it hard to just simply put the drug down.

It’s a complex issue that Willis thinks is rooted in escaping trauma.

“Fentanyl is one of the most dangerous things I’ve ever seen or heard of coming out, and it kills people so quickly,” Willis said. “This opioid crisis is definitely something that needs to be addressed on a deeper level.”

For Willis, her journey with drug addiction started at 8 years old. She said she used drugs to mentally escape traumatic events from her childhood. For a majority of her 35-year drug addiction, she used meth and pills laced with opioids.

“It gave me a sense of not caring, which is what exactly I wanted to escape,” Willis said.

Nicole England used meth and other drugs for 15 years. She said her addiction was also caused by traumatic childhood events.

“That’s just the common story among, among addicts everywhere,” England said.

Now, both Willis and England have been clean for almost seven years and are working to reduce drug addiction in the Brazos Valley through the nonprofit The Nest, which Willis founded. The organization does street outreach, helps people get into rehab facilities and hosts events to build community with recovering addicts and those wanting to recover. The Nest also works with the judicial system to help offenders in jail for drug-related charges get treatment before or during their sentencing.

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Willis said their goal is to eventually become a 21-day non-medical social detox facility to help people overcome their physical addictions so they can heal.

The organization founder believes it’s important to know that drug use can happen anywhere, from the streets to middle and high-class neighborhoods. She also believes it’s important to seek help no matter how long the person has had an addiction or how old they are.

“I thank God for getting my attention, cleaning me up and giving me a purpose to help others,” Willis said.

The organization is hosting a March Against Meth & Recovery Awareness Fair Oct. 22 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Aldersgate Church, located at 2201 Earl Rudder Fwy South in College Station.

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