Opioid problem: Trying to understand

When you drive past Family Recovery Center you may notice a large banner above the entrance: “Naloxone kits available here.” When you see that banner, do you think about the people who made the wrong choices and got caught up in addiction? Do you think about the people who work daily to help with recovery? Do you struggle with the dialogue you hear when you are out and about?

In late 2016, the Columbus Dispatch reported, “Ohio leads nation in overdose deaths.” Also stated was that the state also leads in heroin overdose deaths and synthetic opioid overdose deaths. “Ohio’s status as the nation’s overdose capital may continue.”

That’s not really something anyone wants to aspire to.

Last September, the Ohio Department of Health released its annual drug overdose report showing an 8-year low in prescription opioid deaths and a 4-year low in heroin overdose deaths. Fentanyl, produced illegally, is mixed with other street drugs (cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine). And this is causing more “unintentional” overdose deaths. There were 4,854 in 2017, according to the ODH.

“Ohio is seeing significant progress in reducing the number of prescription opioids available for abuse, and as a result, prescription opioid-related overdose deaths that don’t also involve fentanyl are at their lowest since 2009,” said Mark Hurst, M.D., director of the Ohio Department of Mental Health. “This progress is significant because prescription opioid abuse is frequently a gateway to heroin and fentanyl use.”

NIDA (The National Institute on Drug Abuse) reports there were 3,613 opioid overdose deaths in 2016; 1,478 heroin and 2,296 synthetic opioids overdose deaths.

Prescription pain medications numb the brain, spine and gastrointestinal tract to pain, explains SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.) These substances also alter mood and slow breathing. Overdose can occur in numerous ways:

— Deliberate misuse of a prescription.

— Use of opioids like heroin.

— Use of an opioid mixed with more potent opioids like fentanyl.

— Use of medication as directed but the prescriber miscalculated the opioid dosage, or an error was made by the pharmacist when filling the prescription or the patient misunderstood directions for use.

— When the prescription is taken with other medications, illicit drugs or alcohol.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced the RecoveryOhio Initiative in January. Noting that we are currently experiencing the state’s worst drug epidemic with about 14 accidental drug overdose deaths each day, increased crime, and social and economic damages, RecoveryOhio Initiative will focus on “advancing and coordinating substance abuse and mental health prevention, treatment and recovery support services at the local, state and federal levels; engage private sector partners to align efforts to do the most good for Ohioans struggling with mental illness or substance abuse disorder and their families; and, initiate and guide enhancements to the behavioral health system to improve the patient’s experience during treatment and treatment outcomes.”

Help is on the way.

Addiction has no address, but Family Recovery Center does. For more information about the education, prevention and treatment programs for substance abuse and related behavioral issues, contact the agency at 964 N. Market St., Lisbon; phone, 330-424-1468; or e-mail, info@familyrecovery.org. FRC is funded in part by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the Ohio Department of Health.