Availability: Drug abuse thriving in Appalachia

“Heroin and opioids contributed to ‘significant increase’ of workplace overdose deaths: NIOSH.”

“Working Toward Recovery: Ohio Town Fights Addiction With Focus on Economy”

“The Appalachian Region: A Data Overview from the 2013-2017 American Community Survey.”

“Drug Abuse Trends in the Youngstown Region.”

These are just a few titles from the massive amount of information being studied, reported, and assessed in the war on drugs.

The first article, published in May 2019, states that over the six-year period of the study there were 760 workplace drug overdose deaths. The overdose deaths included 205 workers ages 25-34 and 202 workers aged 35-44.

“Illicit drugs – narcotics, methamphetamines, cocaine, heroin and cannabinoids – contributed to the highest number of overdose deaths.” Heroin was at the top of the list. More than 40 percent of these deaths occurred in the industries of transportation and housing, construction and health care and social assistance, the report says.

The National Safety Council (NSC) discovered that 75 percent of employers reported their companies being “directly affected by opioids, contributing to workplace overdoses and injuries, positive drug tests, and absenteeism, advises NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.)

“Working Toward Recovery” focuses on Portsmouth, about five hours from Columbiana County, south of Chillicothe. Scioto County faces two huge challenges: “a shrinking economy and a growing addiction crisis.”

The Appalachian Regional Commission director, Wendy Wasserman, said, “There is a problem in making sure the workforce is ready, ready with soft skills, ready with hard skills, ready just psychologically.” She added, “Employers are spooked. They don’t know how to engage and make the best of workers [in recovery] who are eager and ready to go back to work.”

Portsmouth is the nation’s poster child regarding economic decline and how it led to opiate addiction in the 1990s. But some Columbiana County residents may remember what occurred here when the steel mills padlocked their doors and the ripple effects on everything in the region were so devastating.

“If a problem exists in a community, ultimately, the solution to that problem will be found in the same community,” said Tim Thomas, ARC federal co-chair.

The economic status of Columbiana County, according to ARC, has come out somewhere in the middle…not at risk but also not competitive. It is called “transitional,” fluctuating between weak and strong, rated along with all counties in the nation.

ARC has formed the Substance Abuse Advisory Council, a 25-member board that includes law enforcement, recovery services, health, economic development, private industry, education, state governments and others. The goal is to “build and strengthen a recovery ecosystem in Appalachia, drawing on their experiences and community insight.

“Opioids in Appalachia: The Roles of Counties in Reversing a Regional Epidemic” states that the 2017 death rate for opioid overdose in Appalachian counties is increasingly becoming an economic and workforce issue in our region.”

According to OSAM (Ohio Substance Abuse Monitoring Network), in this region the most prevalent drugs of abuse are:

Alcohol

Marijuana

Suboxone/Subutex

Heroin/fentanyl

Prescription opioids

Crack cocaine

This report advises that it’s the fear of overdosing and dying because the drug is cut with fentanyl and carfentanyl that is driving users to move from heroin to cocaine.

And there is something else: “As more users were treated with Vivitrol, the demand for cocaine increased among those receiving medication assisted treatment for opiate use disorder who still desired to get high.” (Emphasis mine.)

The substance agents used to cut the drugs include caffeine, livestock dewormer and local anesthetics.

You might ask why people will use something like this. Client after client in recovery will tell you that their drug of choice was a mistress they will do anything to have. Anything.

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 Columbiana County Mental Health and Recovery Services Board.

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