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Opioid Crisis Awareness Week: Remembering the Story of Cole Peterson


WASHINGTON, DC – Throughout Opioid Crisis Awareness Week, we shared the personal stories from the opioid crisis, stories we heard last year during a roundtable discussion with families and patients who have felt the devastation of the crisis next door. Each day we shared a story of the Americans who have experienced loss, who have struggled, and – in the case of Cole Peterson – their journey to recovery.

Paula Peterson and her son Cole met then-Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) at a roundtable discussion in Walden’s district in Grants Pass, Oregon last year. Paula shared her family’s story and her son’s journey to recovery as part of the Energy and Commerce Committee’s roundtable discussion.

On Monday, we shared the story of Amanda Gray. Tuesday we shared the story of Jamie Daniels. Wednesday we shared the story of Devon Hott. Yesterday we shared the story of Emmett Scannell. Today, we are sharing the story of Cole Peterson.

Paula Peterson shared Cole’s story via video conference from Oregon during an Energy and Commerce Committee roundtable discussion, and highlighted how it’s not “other families” that face the opioid crisis, its “our families.” Click here or above to view Paula’s testimony.

Cole’s Story

Paula Peterson’s oldest son, Cole Peterson, started using oxycodone occasionally around age 15 or 16. Cole was able to obtain the oxycodone easily from some of his friends whose parents had a large stash of unused pain medications.

When the formula for oxycodone changed so that it could not be crushed to smoke or snort, Cole and his friends began to look for other sources. At this time Cole was living in a neighborhood where heroin was abundant. Soon, Cole was not alone, almost all of his friends became addicted to heroin.

“These were and are good kids. Two of his close friends are lost to the streets or to jail. The others are on suboxone to help treat their addiction, including Cole,” said Paula Peterson.

Cole spent two-to-three years on oxycodone before using heroin. Cole’s family sent him to treatment, however he continued to use after his treatment ended.

“Cole finally got off heroin and has been clean for three years using suboxone,” said Paula.

Paula talks about how she attends a support group called Families Anonymous and how there are many other families who are also on this difficult journey.

“It is a national support group devoted to helping people with family members or loved ones who are addicted to drugs or alcohol. We have a lot of parents and grandparents who are looking for help because this is a family disease and we all need to recover,” said Paula.

“We are working to shift the stigma… we have to overcome the shame so we can help each other,” said Paula.

Legislative Highlight

In 2018, Congress passed – according to NBC News – the “most ambitious Congressional effort yet” to combat the opioid crisis. Among many provisions dedicated to promoting treatment and recovery, section 3201 of the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act  “will increase the number of waivered health care providers that can prescribe or dispense medication-assisted treatment (MAT) by authorizing clinical nurse specialists, certified nurse midwives, and certified registered nurse anesthetists to prescribe MAT for five years.” It is key to have the resources readily available to get access to treatment so Cole, and many others like him can receive the help they need.

A main goal of the SUPPORT Act is to ensure those struggling with addiction, and their families, have the resources and support they need to overcome this disease, and help Americans like Cole on their journey to overcome addiction.