What people don’t understand about drug addiction

Feb 4, 2016, 3:50 PM | Updated: 5:23 pm

Penny Legate with her daughter Marah who died of a drug overdose at the age of 19. (Penny Legate)...

Penny Legate with her daughter Marah who died of a drug overdose at the age of 19. (Penny Legate)

(Penny Legate)

If you have never made a mistake in your entire life, then this story may not be for you. But if you are human, and have faults, Penny Legate has a message for you. It’s a message forged from her experience, and the death of her daughter by drug overdose.

“I know people will go, ‘They took the drug and they tried it.’ I understand that,” Legate told KIRO Radio’s Ron and Don Show. “But who among any of us didn’t experiment or make mistakes?”

“Don’t judge me because I sin differently than you,” she added, while speaking about drug addiction, homelessness and the range of issues between. “If you have no blame, you’ve never tried a drug, never drank too much, and you are some kind of perfect person, maybe you can judge. But these are lost souls. Whenever I see someone shuffling around with a cart, I think there is some mother’s lost dream. It breaks my heart. That’s the way we all need to look at these people.”

Related: Penny Legate loses daughter to drug addiction

Legate’s story might be one told by many families struggling with the same issue, but the death of her daughter, Marah, happened amid her career as a high-profile television personality. She was a KIRO TV anchor before hosting KING TV’s popular Evening Magazine. She has therefore received criticism from some in the public, saying things would have turned out differently if she wasn’t working and stayed at home &#8212 a premise Legate does not accept.

And it’s notions like that, and others, that Legate now tries to correct, because according to her, people don’t think about drug addiction in the proper context &#8212 one that reflects reality.

“This is the thing a lot of people don’t understand about addicts who want change, and I think there’s a lot of them who do,” Legate said. “It’s a really hard thing. It’s a disease of relapse. It’s something that actually changes your brain… It becomes a physical, brain disease.”

“A majority of people want help,” she added. “Not all of them, but most do.”

KIRO Radio reporter Josh Kerns echoes that sentiment, having covered drug addiction in the Seattle area.

“Why do people choose? Why did Marah choose? It’s a physical change, a physical addiction that changes the brain chemistry,” he said. “It is no longer a choice when you are trapped in that. I don’t think a lot of people understand that, including doctors.”

Doctors because many pain medications are opiate-based. Those legal, prescribed pain medications have been referenced as a modern path to heroin addiction. As far as a brain is concerned, there is no difference between a pain pill and heroin in a needle.

“They’ll give them pain killers left and right,” Legate said. “People are yelping for pain medication and they are happy to prescribe. I had surgery recently and my doctor gave me 30 (Oxycontin). I took two and threw the rest away.”

Whether it’s a prescribed pill or heroin, eventually, a person’s brain is altered and craves the opiate.

“All you think about is how to get the next fix. That’s how heinous this drug is and the grip it has on people,” Legate said. “That’s why we see so many heroin addicts lose everything. They lose their families, their jobs, their homes and they’re on the streets.”

“(They’re) in The Jungle,” Kerns added.

Homelessness is a hot topic in Seattle with roadside RVs, tent encampments and shootings. Legate notes that addiction is a part of the homeless problem, and therefore, people should approach the homeless issue with that in mind.

“Please don’t judge these people,” Legate said. “They are not throw-away people.”

Ron and Don


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What people don’t understand about drug addiction