by ALEXANDRIA COLEMAN and MACERIO CLARK
“Ohio is No. 2 in the nation for deaths from heroin overdoses,” according to the Ohio Director of Drug Abuse Outreach Initiatives. Since 2008, drug overdoses, mostly from opiates, have surpassed auto fatalities as the leading cause of accidental deaths in the US.
“Unintentional drug overdose continued to be the leading cause of injury-related death in Ohio in 2014 with 2,482 deaths,” said Jennifer Biddinger, the Initiatives director. “This is the highest number of deaths on record from drug overdose and reflects a 17.6 percent increase compared to 2013. Fentanyl-related unintentional drug overdose deaths in Ohio increased for 84 in 2013 to 502 in 2014.”
Biddinger was part of a panel discussion held at TU Feb. 18, titled “Let’s Talk.” The Tiffin community came to together to bring attention to the heroin problem. The event was organized by TU psychology professor, Dr. Jonathan Appel. Biddinger opened the discussion with a short video about a girl named Marin who lost her life because of heroin and added that “we are a culture that takes a pill to feel better.”
According to Biddinger, Ohioans aged 45-54 are at the highest risk for prescription opioid overdoes; males aged 25-34 are at the highest risk for fatal heroin overdose. Most people use drugs for the first as teenagers. The average age is about 14 and the drugs are mainly prescription drugs, she said, adding that 70 percent of abused Rx drugs are received from a friend or loved one. Not all cases start out that way. Some addictions start because the person may have low self-esteem or could be hanging out with the wrong crowd, and longs for a sense of belonging and effects all ages and races, she said.
The talk then transitioned to a panel discussion made up of five people: Alisha Nelson, Ohio Attorney General’s Office; Sheriff Williams Eckelberry, Seneca County Sheriff’s Office; Site Director Ken Majors, Seneca County EMS; and Anthony Ward, Recovering Addict.
Tim Wise, site director of Firelands Counseling and Recovery Services, talked about the process of becoming addicted. A person can become addicted over time. His or her tolerance towards the drug starts to build, which means the person has to use the drug a lot more and up the dosage. Not only does the person build a tolerance towards the drug, but also the drug becomes a part of him or her. It helps the person mellow out, numb negative emotions, and he or she will deal with the effects. Once a person becomes addicted he or she cannot function throughout the day without the drug. Withdrawal can be critical to the person and give them massive discomfort mentally and physically.
Biddinger made a comment “that people are not getting high, they are getting by.”
Wise talked about having withdrawal and what it can do to the body. One type of withdrawal is acute, and with being acute during withdrawal it means that he or she is off of the drug or drugs for two to seven days and that their brain does not want to give up on using drugs. In other words even though they may want to stop using drugs their brain will tell the body that it cannot function correctly while off the drugs. Another type of withdrawal that he or she will go through is the post withdrawal, and this occurs when he or she has been off drugs for one to two years and it can affect the way he or she body functions as well as how they live.
Recovering addict Anthony Ward served time in prison in 2012 because he was so addicted that he would steal in exchange for drugs. After Ward was released from prison he completed the Cross Way Program which helps people stay off drugs but he would relapse and be sent back to prison. He was released again in 2014 and has not done drugs since. Ward told the audience that his best support came from his family. Even though he was on drugs, his family was still trying to do everything it could to help him overcome his addiction. “My family did everything they could to help find me programs all over and because of them I have no more cravings.”
There are many ways that he or she can recover from drug abuse. Wise explained that the Firelands uses vivitral shots that are injected into the body every 28 days. And with this injection to the body it stops a person from wanting to be on opiates. Now it is not as easy as he or she may think it is, he or she has to be off of the drug for five to ten days before going in to get the shot. Although this is a short treatment it is still not the best treatment because there are still relapses that people do fall into.
According to the Bureau of Criminal Investigation the number of cases that have been reported of someone taking Fentanyl have been reported 1,110 times in Ohio and there have been 6,832 cases of Heroin reported in the year of 2015. Seneca County has had a very serious drug abuse problem in the year of 2015. There has been over a hundred cases of heroin and cocaine use over the course of 2015 in Seneca County alone.
Biddinger closed the panel discussion by telling the audience to call 1-800-826-1306 a crisis hotline that is opened for calls anytime of the day or to visit the website at www.mhrsbssw.org for more details and sources on how to overcome drug abuse. You can watch a video on Marin's story of addiction below.