Heroin overdoses are declared an “epidemic” in Ohio
The death toll explodes as pain-killer addicts turn to the cheaper option—heroin
In 2007, overdose deaths surpassed auto accidents as the leading cause of accidental death in Ohio. And the numbers are only growing.
The state says 680 people died of heroin overdoses in 2012, a 37 percent increase from 2011.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine calls heroin overdoses an “epidemic,” factoring into as many as 11 fatal overdoses each week. “In Cleveland, U.S. Attorney Steven Dettelbach calls the problem a public health crisis,” The Washington TImes writes. “Emergency medical responders say calls about heroin-related overdoses are a daily occurrence, while police say an increasing amount of crime such as thefts and burglaries is tied to heroin addicts trying to pay for their next hit.”
Addicts in treatment and substance abuse counselors agree heroin is now the easiest drug to get in Ohio. An unsurprising sentiment, considering numbers like:
- 338 people died in Ohio 2011 of heroin overdoses
- 195 people died in 2013 in Cuyahoga County alone of heroin-related overdoses, surpassing the former record of 161, set in 2012
- 12.5 percent of Ohio drug users in 2011 named heroin as their drug of choice, up from 5.8 percent in 2004
How did this happen?
Health Recovery Services Executive Director Dr. Joe Gay told the Athens News that Ohio began seeing an upswing in heroin addiction running parallel to a decade of unrestricted prescribing of painkillers. After someone takes opioids, he explained, the brain immediately begins to adjust and develop a tolerance, soon requiring a higher dosage to have the same effect.
For example, while an alcoholic may develop a tolerance that sees consumption going from eight beers a day to two cases, six times more, tolerance levels of opiates can increase by as much as 100 times.
“So they’ve got to have more and more and more of it to have the same effect,” he said. “They get hooked. They develop a tolerance, and then they can’t afford their habits. Heroin is cheaper, so they turn to that.
The fight in Ohio
“The numbers are very clear that we have a public health emergency in this state and we need to address it as soon as we can,” Rep. Matt Lundy, an Elyria Democrat, told reporters. “Ohio has the 12th highest overdose rate in the country. … At least 200,000 Ohioans are addicted to opioids such as heroin.”
In Dayton, after 225 died from heroin overdoses in 2013, Montgomery County officials introduced a graphic billboard campaign in hopes of showing the darkest side of the drug. The digital billboards depict a morgue scene with a dead person’s toe tag reading, “Overdosed.”
“We’re not naive. We don’t believe that two billboards are going to all of a sudden turn this thing around,” Foley said. “But we’re hoping this will be a very visual, top-of-mind message to the community that there are people in the community who want to help them.”
In March, Gov. John Kasich signed legislature giving friends or family members the OK to administer the drug overdose antidote, naloxone, marketed as Narcan, without fear of prosecution. DeWine has established a heroin unit of investigators, lawyers and drug abuse awareness specialists to tackle crime, addiction and overdose deaths.
Laws restricting painkiller prescriptions may be curbing the number of people becoming hooked on painkillers, stopping heroin abuse at the source.
Find a Columbus criminal defense lawyer if you’re facing drug charges
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