Deb Gibson lost her 21-year-old son, Shane, to an accidental opioid overdose four years ago.
Since then, she has made it her mission to raise awareness about the opioid epidemic in America.
Gibson organized the second annual Overdose Prevention and Awareness walk Saturday morning at Iris Park in Durango.
“It started with my son being curious,” she said. “He and his friends were taking all kinds of pills. It was a long journey for him, and after he couldn’t get Oxycodone anymore, he began taking heroin.”
Gibson made a plea for people to lock their medicine cabinets because that is where her son and his friends started getting the pills.
“It is unimaginable how it starts,” she said. “All these kids are good kids when they start doing it.”
In Colorado, 912 people died from overdoses in 2016, and 758 were unintentional, according to data from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
The event featured several speakers including representatives from the Durango Police Department, Durango Fire Protection District and Southern Rockies Addiction Treatment Services.
SRATS clinical director Dan Caplin called opioid addiction a “genetic disease of the brain.”
He said many people start using prescription opiates for injuries and become addicted.
“A lot of folks who go down this path start using innocently and get addicted,” he said. “Once the disease gets activated, it is difficult to stop. They have very little control.”
Drew, who didn’t give his last name, a recovering addict, said he lied to his family for two years about his addiction before getting help.
“It is so easy to get caught up in it, and to keep doing it,” he said. “Look for the signs with your kids because it will kill you really fast. I saved three people from overdosing during those two years by administering Narcan to them.”
Paramedic Bill Madison described Narcan as a reversal agent for opiate overdose.
“You do not have to inject Narcan,” he said. “You can insert it into the nose. It is a life saver, and I’ve used it three times in one day before.”
Narcan can be purchased from a pharmacist in many stores, and Madison encouraged people to buy it if they suspect a family or friend of using opioids.
Cindi Taylor with the Durango Police Department told people to dispose of opioids and other drugs at the police department.
“We do everything we can to stop the supply from coming in,” she said. “You can safely dispose of your opioids at a drop box at the police department.”
She also spoke about the recently-enacted Good Samaritan law that provides basic legal protection for those who assist a person who has overdosed.
“If someone witnesses an overdose, they should call and report it and remain on the scene,” Taylor said. “This law protects people who do just that. They will not be arrested for possession.”
The event concluded with a walk along the Animas River, where people tossed roses into the water in honor of those lost to addiction and overdose.