Mother Speaks Out After Losing Son to Heroin Overdose

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DES MOINES, Iowa  --  Often starting with prescription drugs and evolving into addiction, the opioid epidemic is claiming lives and devastating Iowa families.

Lori Anderson, a Des Moines mother, is going through this tragedy after losing her son to addiction this week, and shared her story with Channel 13's Mike DaSilva in hopes of protecting families from the same heartbreak.

"We were there to try and save him, and so of course there's a lot of guilt and a lot of pain because the stigma of your child dying of a heroin overdose, you know, I just couldn't be there to save him. I couldn't be there this time," Lori said.

Lori tried for years to help save her son from the addiction that ultimately would take his life.

"I never thought that I would ever get that call, my son probably never thought that he would ever die from it, you know, it just kind of goes down the line and it stops now, you know, the disease robbed my child, gave me 28 years with him, that was it."

Earlier this week, Matt Sandblom was found dead after overdosing on heroin. He was seeking treatment at a rehab facility at the time.

"He had snuck it in somehow and his roommate went to get up at that next morning and found him," Lori said.

Lori says her son struggled with addiction in one form or another for a decade.

"It started with weed, then it moved to pills, then it moved to heroin, and then he was using an IV," she said.

Matt had overdoses three times prior, and had been in and out of rehab.

"One more time, he wanted to do it one more time and that was fatal this time," said Lori.

At Mercy Medical Center, Dr. Thomas Wernimont says over the last year, there's been an increase in heroin or opioid overdose patients.

"It's not uncommon to go a shift where we see one or two patients that have had some type of heroin overdose," he said.

Most heroin overdose patients are taken by EMS and given Naloxone, a generic brand of Narcan, a medication that reverses the effects of heroin.

"A lot of times when they arrive here they're already awake, their high has been stopped, and a lot of times they're upset that we've taken away their high or euphoria," said Dr. Wernimont.

"I pray that one child, one person, gets off of it, gets away from it, stays clean, does the right thing, is able to fight that demon, you know?" said Lori. "This disease of addiction, especially with heroin, has taken so many kids that I know, it has to stop. It has to stop."

This is Lori's ultimate message, that recovery is possible and the disease of addiction does not have to win. She encourages people to speak up if they see their friends or loved ones struggling with addiction.

According to the Iowa Department of Health, the opioid epidemic is getting worse. In 2005, Iowa hospitals treated 608 patients for opioid overdoses. That number climbed to nearly 2,000 in 2014. The number of opioid deaths has also increased, from 12 in 2005 to 52 in 2014.