Jackie Siegel Explains Why The Opioid Crisis Is So Critical Now - Exclusive

If you're one of the lucky ones who doesn't have any friends, family, or neighbors struggling with opioid use, the opioid crisis can feel hard to wrap your mind around. After all, opioid use often occurs in private. But quiet as they are, their effects can be deadly. Jackie Siegel, star of the 2012 docuseries "The Queen of Versailles," and the new Discovery spin-off show, "Queen of Versailles Reigns Again," learned this in the most devastating way possible. In 2015, her 18-year-old daughter Victoria suddenly died from an opioid overdose.

Victoria Siegel's death was not only heartbreaking, but an utter shock to her parents, who had no idea she was using opioids. And it instantly put the Siegels' glamor-filled lifestyle into stark perspective. Both "The Queen of Versailles" and "Queen of Versailles Reigns Again" documents the family's construction of a palatial 90,000-square-foot luxury home of their dreams. But after Victoria Siegel's death, Jackie Siegel turned her focus toward educating others about opioid abuse and how to prevent it. And through her work, she's discovered that the opioid crisis has only grown worse since her daughter's death. 

Opioid addiction is difficult to treat

Most of us know someone who firmly believes that any health challenge, from obesity, to depression, to addiction, can be cured with nothing more than will power and gumption. Want to lose weight? Stop eating so much! Want to get off drugs? Just stop taking them already! But as Jackie Siegel explains, when it comes to opioid addiction, it's not that simple. The addiction is not just mental, but physical, and withdrawal from opioids can be physically painful. "A few years ago, no one knew how addictive it was, but it's so bad that you can go into seizures when you come off," she explains.

Siegel even cites the recent legal dispute between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard and how it highlighted the mental, emotional, and physical damage that opioids could cause. "And Johnny Depp, he was like mentioning about when he tried to not take the painkillers, I mean, you get this tingling of the receptors and stuff in your body," she said. "And it's not so much about getting high, but it's just to stop that pain of the withdrawal."

Opioids can be dangerously easy to abuse

While opioids can be safe and effective pain relievers when used in proper doses under medical supervision, their deceptively pleasant initial effects can make people crave more. Jackie Siegel understands this from personal experience. "I had my appendix out once and they gave me morphine in the hospital, in the emergency room and it's like, 'Oh my God, this is the best day ever,'" she said. "I wish I had more appendix to take out because I'd keep going back."

And she's seen that the slope between medically appropriate opioid use and addiction can be dangerously slippery. "It's really close to every week I'm hearing about someone else passing away that didn't mean to," she said. "Maybe their doctor stopped their prescription of Percocet, so they go to the internet or on social media, they're selling the drugs and it's fentanyl and it's not even what they think that they're going to take." 

Through a foundation Jackie started in honor of her daughter, Victoria's Voice, she is working to put an end to these needless deaths.

"Queen of Versailles Reigns Again" is now streaming on Discovery+.