We’ve heard a lot of talk lately about the opioid epidemic from medical experts to the governor of Pennsylvania.
Newswatch 16 takes a look at the real story of real people suffering after prescription drug use led to heroin overdoses.
The Stoker family from Selinsgrove is one family spotlighted in our "Faces of Addiction" segment this month.
Newswatch 16 went inside a home in Selinsgrove to meet this all-American-looking family -- a letter carrier, a physician assistant, and a registered nurse. But there's someone missing from the Stoker family picture.
Teresa Stoker lost her son last year. She and her two surviving children Desiree and Matt agreed to let us inside their nightmare that far too many families also face: a loved one dealing with opioid addiction.
It's the story of how Mark became an addict began before he worked as a helicopter lineman in 2014, before he graduated from Mifflinburg Area High School in 2008.
"When mark was 14 years old, he had his wisdom teeth pulled and that's probably what woke up his addiction demon up inside of him at that time."
And that addiction demon grew. In 2012 mark underwent surgery for kidney stones as an adult. Medical privacy laws prevented Teresa from knowing how many pill prescriptions Mark had or just how dependent he became on the drugs. Red flags started surfacing some time later at home when Teresa noticed that some old, unused pain pills in the kitchen started to disappear.
In the five trips to rehab and relapses, Teresa decided to take matters into her own hands, bringing Mark back home, even making him sleep in her bed at night so he wouldn't sneak out to get high.
During one of Mark's relapses, he stole from his own sister. After losing her brother's trust and seeing him fail at the rehab facilities she helped pay for, Desiree had to step away.
It became a cycle. Mark would use heroin again, the family would receive a call from the hospital that he overdosed but somehow he managed to come back to life time after time.
At age 27, on February 4, 2016, Mark Stoker died from a heroin overdose. His funeral was held on the 25th anniversary of his father's death.
Out of all of this, a mom finds a mission hoping that the growing opioid epidemic has lawmakers looking more closely at our health care system and at how painkillers are prescribed.
"You can always go to Walmart and get a drug test to test them. Don't ever second guess if you think your child may be, don't ever hesitate to find out," Teresa said.
For Teresa, she found out too late. Her son's ashes are in a small urn around her neck -- a constant reminder of how the opioid epidemic can strike anywhere in any home, even in what seems like a picture-perfect, all-American neighborhood.
If you or someone you know is suffering from opioid addiction, click here to head to the state's resource website.
To be connected to the website which puts a face to addiction, the page Ryan mentioned that "Celebrates Lost Loved Ones," head here!