Hindman, Kentucky — Heartache has a way of pushing down hope in Hindman, Kentucky, an outpost in the Appalachian Mountains.
Nathan Smith’s drug addictions took 20 years of his life. Pain pills after a work accident got his spiral started, followed by crystal methamphetamine.
“You could go about anywhere and find anything you was looking for,” Smith told CBS News.
There were over 109,000 drug overdose deaths in the U.S. in 2022, according to the latest projected numbers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than two-thirds of those, over 75,000, were caused by synthetic opioids, the CDC found.
“I knew that if something didn’t happen, that I was eithing going to wind up in prison, or I was going to be dead,” Smith said.
Hindman and its population of nearly 700 are located in an area known as Troublesome Creek in Knott County, one of the poorest counties in the nation, with an overdose rate nearly triple the national average, according to numbers from the Appalachian School of Luthiery.
“It’s a crisis here,” said Doug Naselroad, who runs a Knott County rehab program for former drug users.
The program has about a dozen employees, all recovering addicts. Naselroad takes addicts in and teaches them woodworking, specifically how to build guitars and how to break with using.
“The nature of making guitars, it’s a long curve,” Naselroad said. “The gratification is not instant.”
“(It’s the) opposite of drugs,” he adds. “You have to commit a lot of labor-intensive hours to building a guitar.”
Since 2012, more than 200 recovering addicts have come through the program. They have built hundreds of string instruments sold to music stores across the country. The program’s success rate is 71%.
“You know, a 71% success rate is also a 29% failure rate,” Naselroad said. “Not everyone can succeed. Some people are just not able to break free.”
Smith has rebuilt his life here and has been clean for the last five years.
“Everybody deserves a second chance,” Smith said. “And all of us that got a second chance have turned our life around.”