Prescription drug abuse in Montana kills more people than car accidents every year.
We have talked with several families throughout our special Prescription for Addiction series, who have seen the fatal impact of prescription drug addiction.
One person who has seen addiction from start to fatal finish is Heather Montes. On a cool day this spring Montes headed out to the last place she ever wanted to see her sister.
“When we were together we thought we were funny,” said Montes. “I don't think that everybody else would think we were as funny as we were.”
The sound of wind chimes now replaces their laughter and funny times. Those chimes mark the place for a headstone.
Montes’ sister Caitlin Stanich hasn't been gone long -- just two months. But her out-of-control behavior started over a decade before.
“That was Caitlin's freshman year,” said Montes as she looked at old pictures of her sister. “That's sort of the beginning.”
She and Caitlin were just two years apart. Their childhood was filled with birthday parties, trips to the lake, time spent with family.
“Growing up she was a fantastic sister. She had a lot ahead of her, a lot to look forward to."
But that was gone in a flash.
“Addiction started at 16.”
Heather remembers when things changed. She said it started when her sister got Oxycontin from a friend. It took just one time, one high for Caitlin to get hooked.
“Her moods were different, very angry. You could tell when she was on the downside of it. And she would distance herself from family as much as possible.”
That distance became permanent. Despite trips to multiple rehabilitation clinics and other treatment help, Caitlin stayed far away.
“Coming home was hard because it wasn't that sister that I had remembered.”
When Heather got the life-changing news from her dad it was almost expected.
“She drank a lot and took some methadone so it was methadone mixed with the alcohol,” Montes said of her sister’s death. “I had already figured it out I think…I went home and my dad said that she had passed.”
Heather learned even more about Caitlin after she was gone -- things she didn't expect or want to know.
“Going through her phone…that was the hardest thing and I think that made me the most angry.”
Heather said things stored on Catilin’s cell phone told stories of other drugs like heroin, bad friendships and a clear addiction.
May 9 is Caitlin’s 28th birthday -- just two months since she's been laid to rest. Her sister Heather will spend it at the gravesite.
See the resources on this page for help with prescription drug abuse.