Addiction: numbing and losing lives

Opioid abuse on the rise

By Amy Barger -

MIAMI COUNTY — Opiates are meant to help numb the pain, but when they are abused, they numb one’s entire life and ultimately, can take it. In Ohio, there were 2,110 fatal drug overdoses in 2013 with that number increasing. There are efforts being done on the federal and local level to create a change.

“I think there is a recognition that there is a problem that needs to be addressed. There does seem to be an increase (in opioid abuse), especially in heroin activity,” said Brad Reed, director of community resource development at the Tri-County Board of Recovery and Mental Health Services. “That is certainly the narrative that we are seeing in the field.”

Reed said in response to the reduction of prescription drugs that are out on the streets in Miami County, users are turning to heroin due to being cheap and is easier to access. New controls are in place to track the amount of prescription drugs that are being made and creation of a centralized database with patient records of prescription use is also an idea in the works.

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, from Ohio, wrote a letter to the secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services last week concerning opioid abuse on the rise in U.S., asking for increase access to Medication-Assisted Therapy (MAT) for individuals suffering from opioid addiction. Fewer than 40 percent of 2.5 million Americans who abused or were dependent on opiates in 2012 received MAT.

“Too many communities in Ohio and across the country have been affected by the growing public health crisis caused by opioid use,” Brown said. “We’ve got a problem when it’s easier for Americans to get drugs than it is for them to get help to break their addiction. By ensuring that more health professionals can treat prescription drug abuse through proven medication-assisted therapy, we can save lives and strengthen our communities.”

The MAT program not only provides counseling, but also medical treatments to opioid abusers to help break the addiction. The Tri-County Board makes funds available to help abusers start treatment with the program. Currently, the board is working with local courts and jails to begin treatments while the abuser is still incarcerated.

“That’s an opportunity to get them connected to treatment services (while in jail),” Reed said. “They will relapse less frequently and become involved less in the law enforcement. There is a particular danger of (no treatment support) with heroin, because the way the body builds a tolerance for it. (Abusers) detox while in jail and take doses once out of jail – that’s not an uncommon situation.”

The board also offers different agencies to help individuals break opioid addiction. The Recovering and Wellness Centers of Midwest Ohio, Miami County Recovery Council, and Shelby County Counseling Center are all contracted by the board and provide addiction counseling treatment.

To break the vicious cycle of addiction, it starts with the abuser.

“It takes a real desire by the individuals to kick the addiction and the recognition that once addicted, they will always be vulnerable to it,” Reed said. “The ones who think they can control it are the most at risk. It takes courage to separate from the triggers that got you there in the first place.”

Not only does it take the individual to decide they want to fight their addiction, it takes a community.

“It takes law enforcement and a court system that understands addiction and recovery, and we’re getting that we have a really excellent relationship with law enforcement in the three-county area,” Reed said. “They are very good about making the best decision … there’s always more that can be done, and resources are finite, so you do with them what you can.”

Opioid abuse on the rise

By Amy Barger

Reach Amy Barger at (937) 451-3340.

Reach Amy Barger at (937) 451-3340.