SPOKANE, Wash. -

For many of us, the phrase "heroin addict" evokes a specific image, often a junkie, or a criminal.

But, for most, it's not a woman like Melanie Senn.

“I have two little girls. Eleven and three. Maybe not so little anymore,” Senn said.

Senn is a daughter and mother, with a family and a home.

She's also a recovering drug addict.

“It was an awful time in my life,” she said.

Hers is the evolving face of opiate abuse in Spokane and in this country.

“It doesn't discriminate against neighborhood boundaries,” said Assistant Fire Chief Brian Schaeffer.

“It doesn't discriminate against ages, white collar professionals, blue collar, people that are homeless. It crosses all the possible barriers and assumptions that we make,” he said.

Since 1999, opiate-related overdoses have increased significantly.

Spokane is not exempt from that trend.

"Regardless of the geography or the demographics... really every fire station has seen an increase, [a] substantial increase in those types of overdoses,” Schaeffer said,

Firefighters can see anywhere from 10-20 overdoses a week.

Heroin is still the most common, and most fatal, opiate used in Spokane, and men the most likely to overdose on it.

But for many women like Melanie Senn, women in their 30s to 50s, what spiraled into a severe addiction began with a visit to the doctor.

“I had an injury at 19, and was put on a pain medication,” Senn said.

For eight years, all seemed well.

“And then he just told me, basically, you should be at the point of not needing it anymore. and, I of course wasn't,” she said.

Middle-aged white women are prescribed opiate painkillers more frequently than any other demographic.

I thought it was prescribed by a doctor and I saw him every month and he assured me everything was good and I was doing the right thing,” Senn said.

A doctor's order almost legitimizes, even justifies the use of drugs.

“The person becomes or became addicted to the narcotic, the physician stopped prescribing for the narcotic, and she had to go somewhere else,” Schaeffer said.

“Honestly, no. I didn't think I had that big of an issue until it wasn't there anymore,” Senn said.

Many don't even realize it, until they're on the street, looking for drugs.

“You can completely understand how somebody got to the situation where they were,” Schaeffer said.