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State of Ohio, State of Emergency: The Heroin Epidemic
Ohio is an awesome place. It’s the home of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. One of the highest rated amusement parks in the world, Cedar Point, is in Ohio. People who call Ohio home include Dave Chappelle, George Clooney, Macy Gray and Machine Gun Kelly. The movie Tommy Boy took place in Ohio, eight US presidents are from Ohio, and where else can you find the world’s largest basket? Ohio may not be the biggest state in the country, and it may not have an ocean-side coastline, but it is one of the most inexpensive places to live, and the tourism business is doing just fine.
Sadly, the state of Ohio is currently facing a heroin epidemic that qualifies as an emergency.
Of the ten cities in America with the highest heroin overdose rates last year, only one state is home to more than one city. Not two but three of the cities are in Ohio. The analyst who compiled this information, Jennifer McDonald, was quoted as saying: “Communities large and small are being torn apart, and this map and data really shows how bad it is.” McDonald says “large and small” because while Dayton and Cleveland made the list (at #1 and #6 respectively), last on the list is Toledo, one of the smaller cities in the state.
What is really happening regarding heroin in Ohio? Let’s examine some recent episodes on a personal level that exemplify the state’s heroin crisis. Some eye-opening statistics and what they mean will follow these stories. After this, we will discuss what is causing this terrible trend and what’s being done to combat the issue. Our attention will then focus on how we at Arrow Passage Recovery in Massillon, Ohio are working extra hard to help curb this heroin epidemic.
You may remember from recent news a couple from Ohio that overdosed on heroin with a 4-year-old boy in the backseat. The picture of the two of them passed out in the front with the child in the back has since become viral after East Liverpool police posted it online to their city’s Facebook page. The idea was to show the rest of the world how immense the heroin problem is in Ohio.
Earlier this month, James Acord was driving his girlfriend Rhonda Pasek and her grandson apparently to the local hospital. Pasek had overdosed on heroin. An officer pulled Acord over because he was driving erratically, and shortly after beginning to explain where he was going, Acord himself overdosed on heroin. When the officer turned the ignition off, he noticed the 4-year-old child. Both Acord and Pasek face multiple charges.
As shocking as this story is to those of us outside Ohio, it’s even more shocking to realize how common things like this are inside Ohio. Consider this heartbreaking quote from a Stat article about heroin in Ohio:
“Unconscious addicts are so frequently dumped in the hospital parking lot that administrators developed a special alert system to treat them. Paramedics have plucked overdose victims from roadside ditches, from the Walmart parking lot, and from living rooms across town. It has become routine for children to see a passed-out parent jolted to life with a dose of Narcan.”
Last week, another grandmother from Ohio overdosed with a child in her vehicle. Debra Hyde, 56, was found passed out from a heroin overdose behind the steering wheel of her pickup truck. Her eight-month-old grandson was inside. To make matters worse, the truck was locked, in drive, the engine running, and in front of a propane tank storage shed at a gas station. An emergency rescue crew had to break two windows to safely remove both of them. Debra Hyde later said: “One time. Do you want to take that chance? No. It’s not worth it. It’s not worth it. It doesn’t solve your problems. It’s just gonna make loved ones hurt in the end.”
On September 2nd, Jason Hess of Crestville died from a heroin overdose. He was 35 and had been addicted to heroin for fifteen years. Just weeks before his death, Hess suffered a non-fatal overdose and his father, John Hess, had to revive him. John was quoted as saying, “I did two tours in Vietnam. I’ve seen a lot of stuff. You can’t describe it. I literally had to breathe life into him.” A few hours after Jason’s mother, Barbara Fultz, found out about his death, she committed suicide. It was her 60th birthday. “Life is no longer enjoyable; I have been like Samson holding up the pillars too long,” read part of her suicide note.
In 2014, Laura Bagot of Westerville tried heroin for her first time and died of an overdose.
In 2012, also in Westerville, 25-year-old Emily Thacker was charged with manslaughter after fatally injecting Russell Ronske with heroin.
A Growing Problem
Regrettably, every day in Ohio there is another story that unfolds like these. Starting in 2007 and true for every year since, the leading cause of death among Ohioans is unintentional drug overdose. More people in Ohio die because of drugs than because of car accidents.
Take in this graph published by the Ohio Department of Health recently:
The state saw a 20% increase in the number of fatal drug overdoses from 2013 to 2014, and another 20% increase from 2014 to 2015. Last year 3,050 Ohio residents died from drug overdoses. Approximately half of these deaths were from heroin. Every single day over three people die from heroin in Ohio. Nationally, this number is 29. Of all fifty states, Ohio accounts for over 10% of daily heroin deaths.
Before we discuss possible reasons for why the American heroin epidemic has hit Ohio particularly hard, let’s reflect on some more startling statistics. Published by the Columbus Dispatch, an Ohio newspaper for residents in the Columbus area, these facts are less numerical than percentages and death tolls, but equally as revealing.
Child protection services in Ohio currently have nearly 14,000 children in custody.
The infant hospitalization rate due to drug dependency has soared in Ohio recently.
The majority of Ohio law enforcement officers now carry Narcan, an overdose-reversal drug.
Ohio reported more drug overdose deaths than all states except California in 2014.
Only about 13% of those seeking heroin addiction recovery in Ohio find it, due to overcrowded facilities.
Between 2011 and 2015, over 3.8 billion doses of opioid medication were prescribed in Ohio alone.
This last fact raises an important question: Why Ohio? Why is this state being pummeled by the heroin epidemic seemingly worse than any other state? Is it this astoundingly large number of opioid prescriptions? Evidence suggests maybe. However, heroin having the presence of Fentanyl, a narcotic 100x stronger than morphine, has played a major role in Ohio’s problem. So too has Fentanyl’s much much stronger cousin, Carfentanil (an elephant sedative). Evidence also suggests geographic reasons as to why Ohio is caught in the grip of a heroin epidemic. There is truth to all these theories.
The entire country faces a heroin epidemic. Fatal heroin overdoses in America have increased by 286% in fourteen years. However, Ohio seems to be getting hit especially hard. Are there explicit reasons why?
In the beginning of the millennium, the US saw the existence of ‘pill mills,’ or medical clinics that over-prescribed opioid medication. Before an epidemic was reached, doctors would prescribe opioids regularly, often because they do work for pain. However, doctors would prescribe them also for insurance purposes, and due to doctor shopping, a practice where patients visit multiple doctors to receive multiple prescriptions. The later 2000s saw a crackdown on pill mills, and therefore an increase in the street value of prescription drugs. Heroin proved a cheaper alternative, and has since become America’s newest epidemic. Says Sam Quinones, author of Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic, “Ohio is really the center of this whole problem.”
Ohio is the seventh most populated state, and ranks fifth on the list of states with the most opioid prescriptions. There are as many opioid prescriptions as there are people in the state. According to the Ohio Department of Health, over 20% of Ohio high-schoolers have taken a prescription drug that was not theirs. Of these kids, half took narcotics. Eight out of ten kids who abuse these drugs get them from a friend or a relative.
It all adds up. Ohio has an abnormally large number of opioid prescriptions. Of the 2,700 Ohioan kids a day who take a prescription pill recreationally for the first time, 2,160 of them got it from the person it was prescribed to. It’s almost like a breeding ground of opioid addiction. Many heroin addicts say the addiction began with opioid medication.
As sad as it may be, every state has heroin addicts who will tell you they began using due to an opioid addiction. Ohio is no exception. Yes, there are more prescriptions issued in Ohio than in many other states, but still two questions must be asked: 1. Why is heroin killing more people in Ohio than elsewhere? 2. Where did all the heroin in Ohio come from?
Fentanyl & Carfentanil
Fentanyl is an opioid pain medication 80-100 times stronger than morphine. It’s what killed Prince. It’s also what killed 1,155 people in Ohio last year. Only 30 of these people who died of Fentanyl had a prescription for it. The majority of the deaths are from heroin being spiked. Batches of heroin containing Fentanyl have been seized in Ohio plenty of times before, most notably this summer when a string of overdoses occurred in a very short period of time.
Even worse, some heroin batches have contained Carfentanil, a large mammal tranquilizer, 2 mg of which can knock an African elephant unconscious. Carfentanil is not approved for human consumption whatsoever. It is a much stronger version of Fentanyl, which itself can kill a human being.
Fentanyl can be obtained via prescription, and Carfentanil can be obtained through a veterinarian. However, drug dealers are synthetically reproducing these drugs as well. Marcie Siedel, director of the Drug Free Action Alliance, said to the Columbus Dispatch, “The surge of heroin laced with street-made fentanyl is a deadly new factor.”
What’s Being Done
Three years ago, the Ohio Attorney General’s Office established a Heroin Unit for prosecution support and extending education. The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation was subsequently formed, as well as the Ohio Organized Crime Investigations Commission.
A plethora of laws have been passed recently to further criminalize heroin dealers. Ohio “is mounting a vigorous fight against heroin.” Casey’s Law was passed in 2012, strengthening the rehabilitation process for heroin addicts by allowing for court-ordered involuntary drug treatment by request. The Ohio Automated Rx Reporting System requires those receiving opioid-based prescriptions to undergo a patient review process. Under this system, minors cannot be issued controlled substances without parental consent.
Of the 88 counties in Ohio, over half have specialty courts designed to address the state’s drug epidemic. Many of these courts use medically-assisted treatment. Franklin County was the first to introduce a court specifically for heroin, called the Opiate Extension Program (OEP). For those arrested on non-violent drug charges, completing the OEP can significantly reduce the charge. Two years of sobriety is required for OEP completion.
What We’re Doing
We are helping to combat the growing heroin epidemic in Ohio. Arrow Passage Recovery, located in Massillon, about 50 miles south of Cleveland, offers state-of-the-art addiction rehabilitation services for Ohio residents. A private facility with less than 50 employees, Arrow Passage can guarantee a personal feel. We guarantee an easy enrollment process, a customized treatment process, and the most updated technologies. Both alcohol and drug addiction can be treated.
Take the first step and Call us at 888-802-7769. We offer both residential and outpatient treatment, as well as partial hospitalization. Regardless of which level of care you opt for, there is a three-part process for Arrow Passage patients: detox, treatment, and aftercare.
Arrow Passage creates the safest and most comfortable detoxification process possible. A slow detoxification process with a focus on minimal withdrawal is implemented. Alongside detoxification is a customized treatment plan that includes therapy, guidance, advice, and support on many levels. At Arrow Passage, we know that suddenly stopping use of a substance can cause more damage than good so we make sure you’re in the best care.
Your standard one-on-one discussions and group discussions are offered at Arrow Passage Recovery. Also offered is swimming, music, art, acupuncture, and plenty of other positive activities. We help you enjoy life free from the mental obsessions created by drugs and alcohol.
The process of recovery is not over once your stay is up. Aftercare programs are designed to assist those who have ‘graduated’ from Arrow Passage and are transitioning back into everyday life.
Continuing with being technologically advanced, every patient of Arrow Passage receives a tablet “to make the learning delivery in treatment fun and interactive.” The tablet gives patients access to their individual treatments, marking progress and offering further resources for recovery.
If you or a loved one is struggling with heroin addiction don’t hesitate to call us. We’re available 24/7/365. Help yourself and help Ohio.