Local man shares story on 'Overdose Awareness Day'

LAS VEGAS - Thursday marked Overdose Awareness Day, which brings attention to the nationwide opioid epidemic that claims tens of thousands of lives every year.

According to the Southern Nevada Health District, in 2015 almost 300 people died of an overdose.

Nick Zimmer cheated death twice, so he's sharing his story.

"It changed the core of who I was, really," Zimmer said. "Once it has a grip on you, it's hard; hard to stop."

But the near death experience didn't scare him straight.

"I came up on like 90-days clean, and I was like 'all right, today is the day!' But I ended up calling my old dealer," Zimmer said.

After that, Zimmer overdosed on heroin.  It was his first time overdosing on the drug.  Zimmer said he transitioned to the drug after it was harder for him to get pain killers.

"I used that one time, I hit the floor," Zimmer said.  "I was lucky enough that somebody heard me and was able to call 911,  I had EMT's revive me."

However, that experience didn't keep Zimmer from trying the drug because five months later he overdosed again. This time, it happened after he found a stash of the drug inside a pair of shoes.

Once again, Zimmer's life was spared when paramedics used the drug naloxone on him. Naloxone is a drug that reverses the effects of opioids.

After that incident, Zimmer said he told himself that there wouldn't be a third time.

"That was the time when it really clicked," Zimmer said. "I was like 'all right, this is never, ever happening to me ever again'."

While there's medicine to reverse the effect of an overdose, it does not cure an addiction.

Zimmer was well aware that if he wanted to continue to live, he needed help, so he checked into Solutions Recovery, a treatment center in Las Vegas.

"Treatment is a great option for people to treat this really deadly disease," said Marc Turner, chief executive officer, Desert Hope Treatment Center.

Turner says anywhere between 55 to 70 percent of their clients are battling an opioid addiction, and more often than not, the facility is nearly at capacity.

"It can be a challenge that you know sometimes facilities are full and don't have a bed," Turner said.

Despite the capacity issue, Zimmer believes a person who is an addict first has to be willing to change.

"I know from experience that it is a miserable existence and you don't have to live that way anymore," Zimmer said.


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