weather icon Clear

Opioid addiction ‘a very real issue’ for Nevada legislator

Prescription opioid addiction happens in the best of families, but that fact provides small solace to Patricia Farley these days.

A mother of two and successful business owner, Farley is also a legislator who represents District 8 in the state Senate. She’s one of four members of a family raised by a hardworking single father. In fact, most of Tom Farley’s children learned the value of a strong work ethic, stayed in school and have achieved success in their lives.

But the family’s collective best efforts haven’t yet been able to pull 38-year-old brother James Farley from the abyss of oxycodone addiction.

“It’s a very real issue,” Farley said after reading a recent column highlighting the opioid abuse epidemic. “Right now I’m in the middle of intervening in my younger brother’s life. … I’ve been trying to get his straightened out. I’ve spent the last week and a half taking all of his options away. … The sad reality is, it’s not just him and his girlfriend. There are children involved.”

It’s not the first time. And as always in cases of long-term addiction, there’s no shortage of collateral damage. Convicted of drug-related offenses and living in Tom Farley’s home in Mesa, Arizona, James Farley has fathered four children — two of whom were born addicted to opiates. One baby was in the neonatal intensive care unit for more than six weeks. While the father has been in and out of trouble and treatment, they have been diagnosed with learning disabilities.

The son’s opioid abuse has taken a toll on the ailing patriarch of the family, too. That’s the waking nightmare: No family member goes untouched by addiction. Trust, money, relationships are all consumed along the way.

As his sister recalls, James had behavior and drug problems in high school and a circle of friends that led him astray. After an incident a decade ago that left him injured, he received prescribed medicine for pain and quickly became addicted to oxycodone.

The family has continued to battle on his behalf, but as the years have passed, the damage has accrued. Not just to the addict, but to members of his family as well. That’s the reality of addiction.

The lies are endless, the drain on family financial resources constant. The painful process of drug rehabilitation must repeated. The disappointment is ceaseless.

Although many people get the better of their addiction, Farley said her brother continues to struggle.

“He signed up for rehab outpatient and never went,” she says. “He went right back to the oxy and that life. … To be honest, it’s taken a phenomenal toll. My whole family was pretty close with the exception of James. My brother will steal anything he can. The cycle’s never-ending.”

As heart-wrenching as it is, the Farley family story is actually neither extraordinary nor rare. Most families dealing with addiction can share similar experiences.

In states across the country, opioid overdose has risen so dramatically that lawmakers are responding with tougher sanctions and greater treatment. In Washington, Senate and House bills establishing grants to combat drug abuse have bipartisan support. With nearly 47,000 people dying from heroin and opioid overdose in 2014, and more than half killing themselves with prescription medicines, there’s little time for political gamesmanship.

That’s what separates Farley from most other family members of opioid addicts. She’s a Nevada legislator. As a member of the Senate, and in concert with David Marlon, president of Solutions Recovery substance abuse rehabilitation center, Farley says she plans to fight for legislation that will toughen state law and increase scrutiny of pain management clinics that have gained a reputation as “pill mills.”

She explains how opioid abusers still find it too easy to prescription shop between doctors. Addicts commonly collect enough pills to support themselves and have enough left over to sell on the street at a hefty profit, Farley says.

“We want to make it harder for people like my brother who are in the business of selling oxy and the doctors who are living off it,” she says.

Farley knows what most people know: When it comes to prescription opioids, addiction happens in the best of families.

— John L. Smith’s column appears Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday. Contact him at 702 383-0295, or jsmith@reviewjournal.com. On Twitter: @jlnevadasmith

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Arizona Senate race may affect confirmation of new justice

If Arizona Democrat Mark Kelly wins a seat in the U.S. Senate, he could take office as early as Nov. 30, shrinking the GOP’s Senate majority at a crucial moment and complicating the path to confirmation for President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee.

Biden tells GOP senators not to jam through Supreme Court nominee

Joe Biden slammed President Donald Trump and leading Senate Republicans for trying to jam through a replacement for the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and urged more senators to stand with a pair of GOP colleagues who oppose the election-season rush.

Sources: Woman accused of sending ricin letter arrested

A woman suspected of sending an envelope containing the poison ricin, which was addressed to White House, has been arrested at the New York-Canada border, three law enforcement officials told The Associated Press on Sunday.

Murkowski also says no high court vote before election

She joins Maine Sen. Susan Collins among Republicans opposed to confirming a successor to the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg before the election.

California desert towns told to evacuate as winds stoke flames

Strong winds stoked a wildfire burning for nearly two weeks in mountains northeast of Los Angeles, prompting authorities to issue new evacuation orders for desert communities that lost some homes a day earlier.

4.5 earthquake shakes Southern California

A magnitude 4.6 earthquake struck Southern California late Friday night, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

Trump backs proposed deal to keep TikTok operating in US

President Donald Trump said Saturday he’s given his “blessing” to a proposed deal that would see the popular video-sharing app TikTok partner with Oracle and Walmart and form a U.S. company.