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Ozarks mother speaks after daughter’s heroin overdose: ‘I’ll never understand the stigma’

Samantha Huntley (right) with her mother, Julie Oziah-Gideon.
Samantha Huntley (right) with her mother, Julie Oziah-Gideon.

A Missouri mother is aiming to raise awareness of drug addiction by speaking about the tragic death of her daughter by heroin overdose.

“I’ll never understand the stigma and judgmental people in this world,” Julie Oziah-Gideon told The Star. Her daughter, Samantha Huntley, died in early September, weeks after completing a drug treatment program. “I’m proud of her. She fought,” she added to the Springfield News-Leader, whom she spoke to first.

Oziah-Gideon said since her daughter’s death, she’s received many misguided and negative comments.

Huntley’s trouble with opioids began at 16, after her back was broken in a car crash. She was prescribed hydrocodone, her mother wrote in a message to The Star.

samantha
Samantha Huntley was 20 years old when she overdosed. Her mother said a car crash when her daughter was 16, and the pain pills prescribed to her as a result, likely sparked her addiction. Julie Oziah-Gideon

“At the time, I never really thought about it, but of course, she was given pain pills,” Oziah-Gideon told the News-Leader. “I can’t say 100 percent that she wouldn’t have ever taken pills because everybody at school was doing it. But I have to think that maybe she wouldn’t.”

The broken back ended Huntley’s cheerleading career at Kickapoo High School. It led to anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. She continued taking pills after her doctor stopped prescribing them.

By 18, Xanax was prevalent in her school, Oziah-Gideon added. And by that year, Huntley’s last of high school, she told her mother she had a heroin problem.

About two years later, she died. Her mother found her slumped over on her bed. A needle was in her lap.

Her daughter was 20 years old.

Huntley had received about a month-long treatment weeks before her overdose, but that wasn’t enough time, Oziah-Gideon said.

“This generation needs more than a 30-day treatment. They need at least 90 to 100 days, inpatient,” she said. “I did everything in my power and beyond to try to help her, to try to get her treatment.”

Some of her daughter’s friends abandoned her as she battled her addiction, Oziah-Gideon said.

“I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy. I wouldn’t. But until it’s in your face, you don’t KNOW. Help those that need help. Change it!” she wrote to The Star.

She’s speaking out now to combat the misconceptions of drug addiction. Drug abuse is not a choice, she said.

“Are mental health issues A CHOICE!? Is any other disease a choice?” she wrote. “Shun me for that, do as you will. I love my daughter more than anything or anyone and I will honor her and all the others struggling with addiction.”

Opioid addiction is a fast-growing problem in Missouri and across the country. Here is a look at some alarming statistics. Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Max Londberg: 816-234-4378, @MaxLondberg

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