HOUSTON — KHOU 11 is taking a closer look at the prescription opioid problem in Houston.

Larry Fontenot is a recovering opioid addict who will be clean for three years next month. He said his addiction to opioids began when he was young, and he could count on Houston’s pill mills to help fuel his addiction as his disease progressed.

“It’s like I couldn’t live without it,” Fontenot said. "I couldn’t get out of bed unless I had a pill in my system. I’ve had it where I had a couple days they call it a dry spell where I’d throw up, get sick as a dog, I wouldn’t feel right until I had my fix.”

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Fontenot said it was easy to get prescriptions in Houston. He said he would go to cash-pay clinics in Houston several times a month.

“Just go in there, show my ID, see him for a minute. He’d ask if I was having pain, I said yes and walk out with three or four scripts,” Fontenot said.

The Department of Justice announced 38 arrests across Houston Wednesday for what it calls one of the most sophisticated drug networks it’s seen in the United States. The arrests include local doctors and pharmacists who allegedly diverted more than 23 million opioid pills.

“I know that since January we’ve had over 1,300 people come into our foundation with opioid use disorder as their primary drug of choice,” said Steven Reeves, Cenikor recovery center senior manager of long-term care. "So it’s bad.”

Reeves said opioid addiction is tough to beat, but said it’s possible.

Cenikor’s long-term residential program keeps clients at the facility for 18 months to two years.

Reeves says more than 70 percent of the foundation’s patients are still clean and sober one year after they are released.

Larry Fontenot is now an intern at Cenikor’s Deer Park location helping other addicts along their roads to recovery. He said pill mill raids like the recent federal operation work and make it more difficult for addicts to fuel their disease.

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