- Associated Press - Monday, June 23, 2014

STEWARTVILLE, Minn. (AP) - As Ward and Deb Brossoit prepared to welcome people to the family support group they’ll facilitate, they had a few wishes.

“Well, first, we hope these people still have living addicts,” Ward said. He knows that’s not a given in this group, designed to offer hope to families who have been affected by addiction.

His own son, Alex, died of a heroin overdose on Feb. 25, six months after his release from a residential treatment program.

Brossoit also knows something few others know: On that same day, roughly 100 other Americans likely also died from drug overdoses -statistically speaking.

“Unfortunately, 105 people overdose on opiates every day,” he said.

There has been a significant increase in fatal overdoses over the last 15 years. In 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 38,329 fatal drug overdoses in the United States - more than double the 16,849 fatal overdoses observed in 1999.

Overdosing is now the leading cause of accidental death in the United States, accounting for more deaths than traffic fatalities or gun homicides and suicides.

Rochester Police Capt. John Sherwin said that local authorities see an overdose - though not necessarily a fatal one - “about every other day, and it’s only going to get worse.”

Alex was born March 17, 1988, the youngest of three children, and the only boy. The family was happy, “normal,” Deb Brossoit said.

Things changed in junior high, when “he was bullied terribly in eighth grade,” she said. “It just hurt him, tore him apart. That’s when he started to (self) medicate,” first with marijuana, then moving on to other, harder drugs.

“He’s been struggling since he was 14,” Brossoit told the Post-Bulletin (http://bit.ly/1lxCT6U).

Those struggles included alcohol and, eventually, heroin. He sought treatment multiple times, from Mayo Clinic’s Generose treatment center to Mayo’s Fountain Centers in Albert Lea to two stays at Hazelden Foundation, the last one from May to September 2013.

“It was very tough when he first went to treatment,” his mother said, “but burying (the fact) just brought more chaos. The stigma of the drug addict is still out there.”

Years passed, she said, before she finally understood her role.

“I told one of the drug counselors, ‘I’ve finally let go of my control,’ and he said, ‘Deb, you’ve never had any. This isn’t your fight.’”

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