Samantha Huntley was a beautiful and popular high school cheerleader when she got into a bad car accident and broke her back, sending the teenager on a dark path that ended with a tragic heroin overdose — one that family members said should have been prevented.
The story of the 20-year-old Missouri woman is being held up as a microcosm of the heroin epidemic that has taken hold in many communities across the United States. Huntley recently died from a heroin overdose, an addiction that started with her car accident and led to tragedy after Samantha’s health insurance company denied to cover the rehab her family said she badly needed.
Samantha’s mother, Julieann Gideon, shared the story with the Daily Mail. Gideon said Samantha was prescribed the powerful and addictive painkiller hydrocodone after her accident, leading to an addiction that eventually turned into a heroin habit.
Julieann said Samantha tried to hide the addiction, but she found pills in her daughter’s room and confronted her. In early 2015, Samantha told her mother that she had moved beyond painkillers and was addicted to heroin.
Desperate to shake the addiction, Samantha asked her mother for help and Julieann brought her daughter to a treatment center near their home in Missouri. They were told there was a one-week wait before Samantha could be admitted, but a doctor prescribed the drug Suboxone, which helped with her withdrawal symptoms.
Samantha went through the rehab drifted back into addiction, and her mother realized that the 30-day treatment would not be enough. Julieann tried to get her daughter into a 90-day treatment facility instead, but insurance would not cover more than 30 days.
In September, a few days after leaving her latest rehab stint, Samantha Huntley died of a heroin overdose.
Experts say the heroin epidemic is growing ever worse across the United States, CBS News reported. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noting that 64,070 people died from drug overdoses in 2016, a 21 percent increase over 2015. Close to 75 percent of those deaths are caused by opioids, which includes both prescription painkillers and heroin.
To put that number into more context, the independent research group Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) noted that more Americans died from drug overdoses in 2016 than were killed in the entire Vietnam War.
Samantha Huntley’s mother said she hopes her daughter’s death can make a difference, calling on those affected by drug overdoses to advocate for insurance companies to cover more appropriate treatment options.
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