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Unholy Addiction

Aired October 10, 2014 - 21:00   ET



LISA LING, CNN NARRATOR (voice-over): Salt Lake City, Utah was founded by the Mormon church to be a utopia of clean living and conservative family values.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We believe our body is a temple and we should treat it as such.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There are things that we're taught in the Mormon church not to do. There are ideals that we strive for.

LING: The population of the state of Utah is mostly Mormon, a faith that discourages drinking, smoking, and drug use. But over the last few years it's been rocked by something unexpected.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You like to come here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let me unplug the phone. Damn it.

LING: And it's taking place behind closed doors.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am sorry, mom and dad.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People are going to do everything they can do to hide it.

LING: Prescription pill addiction. It's a problem everywhere, but it's taking a special toll here in Utah.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Beautiful area.


LING: And does your work bring you here often?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is where I do the majority of my work. It's the oxycontin that seems to be a big hit.

LING: More people are dying from pill overdoses in Utah than almost any other state in the U.S.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, I'll never forget that first oxycontin I took. It was like a miracle cure.

LING: And we're here to find out why. Utah is one of the safest states in the nation. It's scenic and

affluent. And yet people are dying at alarming rates from prescription pill abuse.

This isn't exactly the kind of area where you'd expect a lot of drug activity to be taking place. But we're told that it's everywhere. It's just really hard to get people to talk openly about it on camera. But a woman here and her daughter have agreed to tell us about the secrets that her family have been keeping for years.

KATHY, MOTHER: There are things that we're taught in the Mormon church not to do drinking and smoking. You know, there are some ideals that we strive for. Get married. You know, multiply and replenish the earth. There's that pressure to be perfect. And since we don't drink, there's always the pills, which aren't really talked about.

LING: Kathy wants to talk about the pills. She's been wrestling with sobriety after long-term abuse of painkillers. A leader in her church, she's not at all the face you'd expect to see representing drug addiction. And neither is her daughter Shannon. Shannon is just recently clean herself. Mother and daughter, both addicted, both tired of the secrecy.

How bad would you say the problem is here in Utah?

KATHY: I think it's worse than what people know, realize.

LING: And why do you say that?

KATHY: Because I know a lot of people are like me. They want to keep it secret. There's this pressure to be perfect.

LING: What was it like to grow up here?

KATHY: We were very active members of the church, and I had a good childhood. I never smoked or drank or did anything like that.

LING: Never. Your whole life you never did any of that stuff?

KATHY: No. I really didn't.

LING: Then what happened?

KATHY: Well, just a few years ago I was rollerblading and I twisted my ankle really bad. You know, the doctor gave me some painkillers. I started taking them, thinking, you know, OK, it's like medicine. So.

LING: How quickly would you say you spiraled into addiction?

KATHY: It -- I would say within a few weeks. I found some websites where you could order painkillers online and have them delivered and I just kept taking them.

LING: How did the drugs make you feel? KATHY: They make you feel like everything's OK and you can manage

everything. Which leads to feeling like they're necessary to get through your daily life.

LING: How hard was it to hide that from everyone?

KATHY: It was absolutely necessary in my mind. I was worried about the shame of it. Having this weakness. It's not so much the church putting it on people, but it's people getting that idea that there's a certain standard they've got to live up to. You know, heaven forbid if there's a problem in your life, you're not going to talk about it.

SHANNON, KATHY'S DAUGHTER: You know, it's interesting because I didn't know the whole story until now.

LING: Really?

KATHY: I never really talked about it.

LING: Kathy kept her addiction a secret. And eventually, she added a few more drugs to her roster. Methadone and tranquilizers. Her moment of truth came from a private embarrassment she still can't forget.

KATHY: I just remember there were some people that came over that were friends of my husband's. And I was so strung out on tranquilizers, and I just basically passed out on a chair. And I know that embarrassed him so much. And when I realized, you know, I was really ashamed of it. I went away for a few months. Went to a treatment center. And I ended up staying there for almost three months.

LING: But while Kathy recovered, Shannon, a single mom with her own daughter, fell into the same trap. Except she quickly graduated from pills to heroin. A few months ago she was arrested for driving high and lost custody of her 10-month-old child. And now at only 50 days clean she's trying to sort out what went wrong.

SHANNON: I felt worthless. I didn't fit in the box of being like this housewife. Everybody else in church gets married and has five kids by the time they're 30. Yes, they're not telling you to do that, but how do you feel when you go to church and you're the only one that doesn't?

LING: Do you think you felt pressure to kind of fit into that sort of perfect box?

KATHY: I think you put that pressure on yourself a little bit.

SHANNON: Yes. I'll give it that. I definitely will give it that.

LING: What do you want people to know about what's happening in Utah?

SHANNON: It's deadly. My friend Sarah is where I was two months ago. She's going to die if she doesn't get sober because the kind of drugs we were doing, people don't live to be 30. LING: Shannon puts us in touch with her friend Sarah, someone she

says grew up just like she did, who started pills just like she did. But who was still using and is now virtually homeless.

We are on our way to meet Shannon's friend Sarah. She told us to meet her today at 3:00. But she's been unresponsive by phone, which is not surprising. I mean, she's been using quite heavily and this place where she's staying is really just a temporary one. So we're hoping she's there. So which one is it?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The top left. With the boarded-up windows.

LING: So we're all going to go and see if it's OK with the people who are also staying here if we go in and shoot. Go.

My producers and I head up to check things out, leaving the cameras below. Sarah no longer has her own place to live. She doesn't even have her own phone. But some friends are letting her stay here temporarily.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You can try calling her again.

LING: We wait a few hours, but Sarah is a no-show. Late that night my producer gets a message. "Courtney, it's Sarah. I finally found a home to call you." she says she's home now, it's 11:00 and we want to go try and talk to her while we can because the one thing I know about addicts, they're not exactly the most reliable people.

Hi. Are you Sarah?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. We don't want you guys to come here.

LING: No, no. We just want to pick Sarah up.


LING: Sorry.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hold on a second.


LING: Hi. How are you? I'm Lisa.


LING: Nice to meet you.

SARAH: Nice to meet you.

LING: I hope we didn't --

SARAH: No, it's fine. They're irritated about it.


SARAH: Sorry, guys.

LING: Like Shannon, Sarah is also a young single mom. She tells me she's been homeless since her mother took custody of her daughter. She's not allowed near the family unless she's clean.

How long have you been living in this place?

SARAH: Weeks.

LING: We take Sarah to a hotel where she feels most comfortable talking.

So how did you get addicted to drugs?

SARAH: This one time I was at a party and this guy gave me an oxycontin. And every day after that my habit became like two a day. On like $50, $60, $70 a pill. And then all of a sudden I just couldn't find them anymore. And ever since then it's just heroin, cocaine, meth.

LING: What were you like when you were on oxys?

SARAH: It's like -- you feel like superwoman. I don't know. Like it's hard to explain.

LING: Can I ask what you're on right now?

SARAH: Heroin and meth. It's just once I wake up I start getting high.

LING: And what happens if you don't? What happens to you?

SARAH: I'll get sick. Cold sweats. Muscles ache. It's just anxiety really bad. So I make sure I always have it.

LING: How are you supporting your habit?

SARAH: By selling pills, drugs, I mean, people call me for it. And I just know where to get it.

LING: Sarah tells me she was diagnosed with ADD as a child and still gets a monthly prescription for Adderall. But she gets more illegal drugs by selling her legal ones.

SARAH: I get 90 30s a month. I can sell them for like 10 bucks a pill.

LING: So you make 900 bucks on that.


LING: What kind of influence did the Mormon church have on your life when you were younger?

SARAH: Well, my dad is catholic and my mom is Mormon. My mom has never drink, smoked, done drugs. You know, she just doesn't relate to me at all. We don't relate with each other.

LING: Why do you think addiction is so rampant amongst Mormons here in.

SARAH: Honestly, I think they're depressed or they're hiding some type of issue in their life. You know. They just don't want to be judged by their church.

LING: Is it dangerous your life?

SARAH: Yes. A month ago I got jumped when I was sleeping. They broke my ribs, punctured my lung. I was in the hospital for five days. If I don't change my ways, then, I'm either going to be dead or worse off than I already am.

LING: We drop Sarah off. While we're winding down, her night is just beginning. Since we aren't welcome where she's staying, we left her with a camera to film her daily life as an addict.

I've interviewed many people about drug addiction, but the difference about today for me was that I spent time with three people from relatively well-to-do, affluent places and all three of them in the early part of their lives really strived to do everything right. They wanted to be perfect. But there's no such thing.




LING (voice-over): Within the last decade the number of pill-related deaths in Utah has increased by over 400 percent. And this is the state best known for healthy, clean living, thanks to the majority of Mormons who live here. The LDS church was hesitant to offer an official spokesperson, but one local bishop has agreed to give us his personal views on the problem.

Can you explain what the word of wisdom is?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We believe our body is a temple and that we should treat it as such. In other words, don't take in things that would defile our bodies. But to take in things that are healthy and nutritious.

LING: So prescription pills kind of fall into a gray area. With regard to the word of wisdom, huh?


LING: I've heard from a number of people out here there is a kind of pressure to be perfect in the church. How do you respond to that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, I think the gospel of Jesus Christ teaches us to become more like him and so to become like him means to be as perfect as we can. LING: Do you get the sense that people in the LDS church are

concerned about being judged?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I do think people have that fear. They're scared maybe that their family will reject them or maybe even, you know, the congregations that they attend, if they find out, maybe they would reject them. I haven't experienced that. I think we're harder on ourselves than other people are.

LING: Utah nearly leads the nation in pill addiction. As a bishop, how does that make you feel to know?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, just to know that my fellow members are struggling with something like that. I truly hurt for them. I myself have lost a sibling to alcoholism. It was hard. It was hard to watch that. But I also believe that unless people want the help we can't as a church or as friends or brothers and sisters, we can't change them.

LING: Sorry about your brother.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's OK. It ended up being a strengthening experience. And when people come in and say you don't understand, I understand. I know what they're going through, and I don't want them to go through that. I want them to have their little brother. And you know, some of the people I work with, they are the little brother. And it's a scourge on our society.

LING: Last year more people in Utah died from prescription pill overdoses than car accidents. More little brothers and sisters, more dads and mothers.

This is a new kind of drug war. And the front line is the neighborhood pharmacy.

Are you surprised that pain pill abuse is so rampant in this state in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am a little surprised just because there is such a large religious community here in Utah. But I think that people try to find some type of validation through their doctors that, you know, prescription pain medication isn't considered illegal drugs or illicit drug use.

LING: Is there a typical profile p someone who you think is abusing drugs?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is not. A lot of times it's how they act. If they get nervous. We look for patients that go really far away from home. Patients tend to go to pharmacies where we don't know them.

LING: Have you had those red flags raised often?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. At least a couple times a week.

LING: Utah is fighting back against the problem hard. There are new regulations on prescribing pills and new ways to track the abusers. But the crackdown has its own deadly side effect. When the pills get harder to come by legally, there are always the illegal options. And with an undercover cop who can't reveal his identity, but he wants to show me what can happen when an addict's pill supply runs out. He's taking me to a place right near the temple.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you're a drug user, it's only a matter of time before you end up in a place like this. The open-air drug area.

LING: We pull over to watch the action. The big product here is black tar heroin.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What you'll see is you'll see a car pull up, a hand-to-hand transaction, and the car's gone. Matter of five to ten seconds.

LING: We're not looking for the players. We're looking for the amateurs. And soon enough we found someone who may fit our profile.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a guy that's not street smart. He obviously doesn't have a hookup. See, there you go. There's the hand to hand.

LING: Yes. I see it. Probably just asked for something, right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. And let's see where they tell him to go. This would be your traditional pill head. You know, who's got to get something else. They are so intent on getting what they need. It amazes me sometimes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were burned.

LING: We can go.

This is definitely not a place where cameras are welcome.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is this something you would picture in Salt Lake City, three blocks from the temple? Probably not.




LING: We're two hours outside of Salt Lake City, in a very rural part of Utah. The population of the town is very small, and it's mostly Mormon. San Pete County is one of the original settlements of the Mormon pioneers. It's like going back in time. A place where people walk to church. Where everyone knows each other. But this whole community is being shattered by drug addiction.

Last year the county lost teens, adults, even grandmothers to heroin and pills. Ryan Palmer is a church leader. He's lived here all his life. And just a few months ago his world was rocked to the core.

RYAN PALMER, CHURCH LEADER: We just -- we found him right here behind the minivan. And we did CPR for probably four or five minutes while the ambulance got here. CPR's very grueling. You can tell I broke a few ribs. It's just insane that you have to do that to your own child.

LING: This is the neighbor's driveway where Ryan found Jeremy, where his friends left him after he overdosed on morphine pills.

Have you been back here since his death?

PALMER: Driven by. This is the scene of the horrific part of what we had to deal with.

LING: This is the last place you saw your son.


We farm. And Jeremy would have been the fifth generation farm boy. Jeremy started hanging out with me in the shop from the time he was probably six or 7-years-old. He was my sidekick.

LING: Jeremy wasn't just the pride of his family. He was the pride of the town. Star athlete, eagle scout. But few people knew what was going on behind the scenes.

A lot of people out here, I would imagine, would feel very uneasy about being so open about their family's problems.

PALMER: People are worried about what the neighbors think. The LDS church lives by a higher set of standards, and if they're living their life in a way that's wrong, then yes, they're going to do everything they can do to hide it.

LING: Do you know when Jeremy first experimented with drugs?

PALMER: I know he experimented his freshman year. I know that he tried Loritab painkillers. He tried Xanax.

LING: Where do you think Jeremy got the pills?

PALMER: His mother and I had had some surgeries and stuff, and we'd had some Loritabs here. I know that other -- his friends' parents had had surgeries.

LING: Why do you think Jeremy felt he needed those drugs?

PALMER: I've asked myself that question 100 times or more. Jeremy was taught the word of wisdom. Jeremy was a star athlete. Jeremy took care of himself. Where that changed I'm not exactly sure. I think kids think they're never going to be the one that dies.

LING: In a town with little alcohol use pills were what was available. And what started as youthful experimentation grew into something much worse.

PALMER: He was defiant to authority. He became belligerent. And we could see through into those dimples and those beautiful eyes that where's our boy, you know?

LING: After high school Jeremy came to work in the family business. And the problem became harder to ignore.

PALMER: This is the shop where we worked. Jeremy worked with us. This is where all of the stuff takes place as far as our farm implement restoration.

LING: And so when Jeremy was under the influence how dangerous was this work for him?

PALMER: It's -- it's something you that can't take the risk. There are just so many ways a person could get hurt.

LING: Ryan tried to get help for Jeremy through treatment programs. But as things got worse he had to make a hard choice.

PALMER: If he is using, then he's a danger to himself, he's a danger to those around him. We determined that we would drug test him. And we did that. And he was not clean. And we had to fire him. It crushed me. Because in order for him to respect me I had to fire him like I told him I would.

LING: Jeremy left home and moved in with some older friends with harder drugs. A few months later Ryan got the call every parent fears.

PALMER: My wife Emily took the call. It was just around 6:30 in the morning. And I told her, this is the call. This is the bad one. His friends went to a drug house and purchased morphine and whatever else. He got into trouble breathing. Through the night they had plenty of opportunities, six or seven hours, to get him some medical attention. They chose not to. And the next morning at 6:30 we found our boy dead under a sheet. Dropped off as a piece of garbage because they didn't want to be involved.

LING: This was the day you were fearing most.

PALMER: It's the day I was fearing. Then you go through that vortex of what if. What if I wouldn't have fired him. What if I wouldn't have kicked him out of the house. Absolutely feeling ripped off that my boy's gone. That we know through our faith that we'll get to see that little guy again.

LING: Ryan couldn't save Jeremy. But now he has a new mission -- to save others by breaking the silence.




LING (voice-over): I've now heard firsthand just how easy it is to overdose. Ryan's son Jeremy is gone. And it makes me fear for Sarah.


LING: The last time we saw her we gave her a video camera.

SARAH: So I just took a nap. I'm tired. I had -- I stayed up all night last night.

LING: So she could do some filming of her life on her own terms.

SARAH: My roommate's messy. You can't ever clean up. Money. Mine.

LING: Today she's meeting me to hand off the footage.

Hey, Sarah.


LING: How are you doing?

SARAH: Good. How are you?

LING: Good.

Were you able to shoot anything?

SARAH: Yes. Actually, I did. It's been kind of fun.

LING: What's been going on?

SARAH: Just roommate drama.

LING: Really?


LING: I can't imagine what that's like, to not know where you're going to stay from like week to week.

SARAH: It's tough. There's been points where I've just had it. Calling my parents, just begging them just to help. But I just kind of have to suck it up and go with it. On my own, you know.

LING: Do you like your life?

SARAH: No. I'm not happy at all. At all.

LING: People say that addicts, they have to want to stop. Do you want to?

SARAH: I want to stop even though I've been in and out of jail. I've lost everything.

LING: What do you need, Sarah?

SARAH: I wish I had my parents. I wish I had my daughter. Maybe it's too late. You know? Last time I saw her she's gotten so big. And she's -- she just wants me to see how much she's grown and how much she's learned. And I just -- I can't believe I missed so much. There are some times where I just want to scream out like where's my mom? You know. I'm 26 years old, and I just want a hug from my mom. How hard is that?

LING: You still have a lot of life ahead of you. You know?

SARAH: I know that.

LING: You're only 26.

SARAH: I know.

LING: It's like kind of a great time right now to put it all behind you.

SARAH: I want to so bad. You know?

LING: All the heroin's doing is like covering up your feelings. It's OK to feel like (EXPLETIVE). You know what I mean? You have to feel that way. Otherwise, you're never going to be able to get help.

SARAH: I know.

LING: Sarah seems so ready to quit.

SARAH: I'm an addict. You know what I mean? Like I am.

LING: Tonight I've been invited to an addiction recovery meeting. I figure there's no harm in asking.

I'm going to go to this 12-step program tonight at the church.


LING: We should take you with us. But you probably wouldn't want to go, right?

SARAH: I'd go.

LING: But would you want to go tonight?


LING: Really?

SARAH: Yes. I'll do that. Absolutely.

Do something to get away from this bull (EXPLETIVE). Yes.

LING: We make plans to pick Sarah up. But a few hours later there's no answer at her door.

Meanwhile, a new door has opened up to us. For the first time the Mormon church is allowing our cameras into a very private place. The LDS church acknowledges that addiction is a problem. So it's instituted its own 12-step program for its members. But the meetings don't just happen in Salt Lake City. There are 2,800 meetings a week all around the world, and we've been invited to the one here in Salt Lake.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Welcome to the church of Jesus Christ of latter day saints addiction recovery meeting.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Step one. Admit that you of yourself are powerless to overcome your addictions.

LING: This program uses the same 12 guiding principles of recovery that were first introduced by alcoholics anonymous. But here there's no question who their higher power is.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Step five, admit to yourself, to your heavenly father, in the name of Jesus Christ.


LING: The attendees are all members of the church, going through the same struggle of faith and addiction.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'll never forget that first oxycontin I took. I was on a golf course. It was like a miracle cure.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I wanted to, you know, be the good churchgoing soccer mom. What I found is that pills solved that problem for me. A few years later I found myself with a needle in my arm living out of my car. I had abandoned my kids for two years. Got a divorce. And had absolutely nothing.

LING: I can't help but wish Sarah had come, to hear that other people once felt just as hopeless and got better.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My mom took me to my first meeting and for the first time I felt hope. I have been healed through this program.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My savior Jesus Christ is my best friend. This addiction is his. He paid for it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm grateful to be a part of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I'm grateful to have a seat in these meetings because I have earned it.

LING: The LDS 12-step meeting was really emotional. Everyone in that room shared such painful and candid details about their addiction. Not just with each other but for the world to see. I couldn't have done it.




LING (voice-over): On one of my last days in Salt Lake, I have one more chance to get Sarah some help for her addiction. I was really struck at the 12-step meeting by some of the things that some of the women told. So I asked Sarah if she'd be interested in meeting these women and she said yes. But since then she had to leave the place where she was staying and told us she was staying in this motel. And we've been trying to reach her today. We told her we'd pick her up at 2:00. And she's been unresponsive to our calls.

The first time someone answered and said she's in the shower. The second time a man answered and said that she's gone to see her dad. As we get closer to the motel we call her dad's office to see if she's there.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She never called him back. And never heard from her.

LING: Yes. So she's not with him today. All right. Thank you very much.


LING: OK. Bye.

That was Sarah's father's secretary. This guy told us that Sarah said she would be with her father. But obviously, she's not with him. The last place she said she was this motel. So we're going to see if she's in here.

Hi. Can I have room 213, please?


LING: Hi. Is Sarah there?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She's not. Can I take a message?

LING: Yes. This is Lisa. We were supposed to meet her at this place at 2:00. We're outside.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let me see if I can get a hold of her. But I don't know -- I think she went with her dad.

LING: Yes. We called her dad and she's not with her dad.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She's not here at this second. But let me see if I can get a hold of her. OK?

LING: Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're welcome. Bye-bye.

LING: We wait. And we try her room again.

Probably unplugged the phone. Damn it. So somebody's in there. Maybe even Sarah. But now they're not answering the phone. We have a group of LDS women waiting, and I don't think they're going to meet Sarah today.

Hey. How are you doing?


LING: I'm frustrated. Hi. How are you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi. How are you doing?


LING: Good. First of all, I feel bad because I know you took off time from work and I just had such high hopes for this. But you know, she was staying in this motel and we sat out there in our car and we walked by the room and could clearly hear her voice.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sounds familiar. We understand.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Welcome to the drug world. That's basically you're living moment to moment. I mean, honestly. If you even live. If you feel like you're even living. She's probably just hopeless. You know.

LING: When I asked her like do you want to be clean? She said you have no idea. You have no idea. I mean, I truly believe she does.



LING: Are you surprised that this happened?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It happens more times than not, you know. I mean, you can -- you should expect that they're not going to show up. You should expect that they're going to use drugs. You should expect that they're not going to get sober because really the miracle is when they decide to stop and get sober.

LING: And the sad thing is like I don't know if we saw Sarah for the last time the other night. Who knows if we'll ever see her again.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, we'll keep her in our prayers and hope that one day we will meet her and, you know, that's -- she has our number.

LING: Back at hotel I watch Sarah's video.


LING: The one she shot for us and gave me that day at the diner.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And this will be the process of getting ready for the day. The things we put ourselves through. Just to forget for a little while. LING: It's surprising to see someone be so candid and use openly

right there on camera. But then I think I know what this is really for.

SARAH: Sorry, mom and dad, that you had to see me like this. But I think that it's a good thing, I guess. I don't know. I don't know why I wanted you guys to see how I live, but I do. And hopefully, later on I can look back at this and --


SARAH: Yes. I don't know what I would say about it. But I'm over it.

LING: So this is what Sarah does three, sometimes more times a day. There's such a sadness about her. And to me it seems like she's really crying out, to address her mom and dad on this because she wants them to see her life and how just tragic it is. It's just sad.




LING: I'm stopping by Kathy's house to check in, and I found her dealing with a real consequence of pill addiction.

So Kathy, what's happening?

KATHY: Well, I've had to sell my piano, which I really am going to miss it. But I just really need the money. I've spent so much on rehab facilities.

LING: Are you starting to sell other things?

KATHY: I'm pretty much selling everything that's not nailed down. So. I've had a piano since I was a little girl. I mean, in one way or another we've always had a piano in our house growing up. It's the first time I haven't had one.

LING: Private inpatient drug treatment can cost over $30,000 a month. Kathy has spent almost $600,000 on both her and Shannon's recovery. But it could be a lot worse.

To our south in San Pete County, Ryan Palmer has lost much more. And today he's taking a big step.

So what are you doing today, Ryan?

PALMER: We're doing an assembly for the students of Manti high about the reality of drug use and why we had to bury our boy.

LING: For the first time he'll be talking to hundreds of kids about Jeremy's death. And he's doing it at Jeremy's old high school.

It's the biggest crowd you've spoken in front of. Are you nervous?

PALMER: A little bit nervous. But I think the speaking is the easy part. It's just choking down the emotion that goes with it.

LING: But this is really important to you.

PALMER: It's really important.

LING: OK. Let's go.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to introduce Mr. Palmer to you.

LING: Teens are bombarded with the just say no message. But this is such a different drug issue. I wonder if Ryan's story will get through to them.

PALMER: Can I ask you in the audience how many of you knew my son Jeremy? OK.

This is a picture of Jeremy out in Sterling for his eagle scout project. He refinished the flag poles. We were pretty proud of him. Now the rest of the story. This is Jeremy being buried under those flagpoles he made. My young friends, drugs kill. Many of us think that because a doctor prescribed prescription drugs it's OK. The problem is they alter your min mind. They change who you are.

Your parents love you. Your mom and dad's worry about you every day. There's not one of you sitting in here that wouldn't be missed. If one of you will say no after this assembly today, it will not have been in vain.

Thank you for your time today.

LING: The assembly today that Ryan led was so emotional. And afterwards I saw students approach him, and I overheard them say things like my brother OD'd and my family doesn't talk about it.

It's an epidemic here, and it's been pretty shocking to hear how many people's lives have been affected by drug addiction.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Love you. Thanks for your efforts.

LING: Finally, it seems people like Ryan, people like Kathy, people like Shannon are feeling that it is important enough to start breaking the silence and speaking out. I'm grateful to Sarah for sharing her story. I just -- I hope I will see Sarah again.