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Dr. Melanie Weiss Set to Present Message of Opioid Addiction, Recovery (2018-05-30)
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Members of the public and students in the Milbank School system will have the chance to hear Melanie Weiss, OD, and Paul Weiss talk about their personal experience with her addiction to opioids and recovery. The free sessions will be Tuesday, September 10. The students will attend at 2:30 p.m. and the public session will be at 7 p.m. in the Milbank High School theatre.

Weiss grew up in Watertown in what she describes as “a two-parent, normal middle-class home,” according to information on her website. She was active in sports and did well in school, knowing even before she graduated that she wanted to be an eye doctor.

She set goals like getting married, having kids and owning a business before the age of 35, and she achieved them. Weiss and husband, Paul, moved back to Watertown, had a daughter and then twins, and Melanie’s practice in 2003. “Things just took off,” Weiss said. “The business was thriving, and I had a very large patient base.”

That’s when Weiss’ life took a turn she never expected. “Between 2007 and 2010, I had a few surgeries that started a journey I never thought I would’ve ever experienced,” she said. Her reliance on the prescription pain medications grew, and she began inventing ways to get more medications, even writing out prescriptions for relatives and coercing them into getting the drugs for her.

By 2012, a family member turned her in and the Watertown Police Department intervened. She was put on a 12-month probation by the South Dakota State Board of Optometry. The probation included random drug testing, which she managed to pass.

“After my 12 months of random drug testing was up is when things really started to snowball out of control,” Weiss explained. “I abused every single relationship I had with every physician I knew; every dentist I knew; pretty much anyone who had access to writing prescriptions.” As Weiss’ journey into opioid addiction continued, she began to enter homes without permission and take drugs from drawers and cabinets. It all stopped the day she walked out of a house after searching for drugs, only to be met by Watertown police detectives.

Rather than fear or anger, Weiss felt immense relief at having been stopped. “I didn’t know a way out at the time. Drugs affect your brain so much that I justified that everything I was doing was “ok” even though I knew it was not,” she explained. “It changes your brain chemistry so much and the way you think, that you convince yourself you’re doing these people favors by getting rid of their medication and taking it for yourself.”

Melanie and Paul started My Vision and My Hope in the aftermath of her addiction and recovery. The organizations’ purposes are to spread awareness about their journey through the addiction to pain medication and Melanie’s recovery. “Sometimes bad things happen to good people, but you have a choice to let it define you or make something of it,” Weiss said. “Our mission is to educate the community as a whole about the firsthand effects and consequences of opioid abuse. By telling my story of addiction and recovery, I hope to empower, inspire, and extend a vision of hope to all who hear the message.”

The event in Milbank is sponsored in cooperation between the school, local law enforcement, Grant County Child Protection Team and Inter-Lakes Community Action Partnership.

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