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Baldwin Opens Up About Mother’s Opioid Addiction

US Sen. Baldwin: Opioid Addiction Epidemic 'Hits Close To Home For Me And For So Many Others'

Tammy Baldwin
Jeffrey Phelps/AP Photo

U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin is opening up about her mother’s opioid addiction, telling the story for the first time publicly as she runs for re-election.

Baldwin discussed her mother’s addiction to prescribed pain medication and her struggle with mental illness Tuesday at the Appleton Library with a small panel of women affected by the opioid crisis. Baldwin said she hopes that by telling her story she can empower others who are also struggling.

Baldwin said she felt the time was right after her mother’s death in August at age 75 from a condition unrelated to opioids and a recent Senate health committee hearing where she was moved by the stories of families affected by opioid abuse.

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“What good does it do if everyone just keeps these little secrets? This affects all of us,” Baldwin said.

Baldwin was raised by her grandparents but has never said why. She says the reason is her mother struggled with mental illness and was addicted to powerful narcotics that were prescribed to help her deal with both chronic and sometimes acute pain.

She had several surgeries and they would prescribe (pills),” Baldwin said. “And so I saw her kind of spiral out of control a number of times including since I was in the Senate.”

Baldwin shared early childhood memories and said, “I had no words for ‘addiction’ or ‘mental illness’ or whatever. She was sick and I remember sometimes being dropped off and she would sleep most of the time I was there.”

She said the current opioid addiction epidemic “hits close to home for me and for so many others.”

Editor’s Note: This story was last updated at 5:42 p.m. Tuesday, May 1, 2018.