Of all the heroin deaths in the United States in 2014, 1 out of every 9 occurred in Ohio. Additionally, 1 out of every 14 deaths due to synthetic opioids (such as fentanyl) also took place in the state. In 2015, overdose deaths totaled 3,050. Ohio clearly has an epidemic on its hands which may surprise the general public, but law enforcement officers in the state are all too familiar with the impact of such drugs.
Comparatively, almost 35,000 people nationwide died of opioid-related overdoses in 2015. While the nationwide scourge is rages, clearly the problem is magnified in Ohio specifically. Opiates in general are incredibly popular drugs throughout the United States, with 669,000 people reporting recent use in 2012.
What encourages the popularity of opiate drugs, specifically heroin and fentanyl? How is this impacting Ohio and what does the state plan to do to address the issue? Should the United States place a larger focus on the harrowing effects of opioid drugs on the nation?
What Are Opiates and Opioids? What Do They Do?
Opiates are drugs created from opium, including heroin. Opioids are synthetically manufactured to replicate the chemical structure of opiates, such as painkillers like Vicodin and Norco. Opioids are often prescribed after surgery or other medical procedures. Abuse of these medications can lead or transfer into opiate addiction.
Opiates and opioids are depressant drugs that attach to the brain’s opioid receptors and create morphine-like effects. They cause an intense relaxation of the mind and body, which helps make them incredibly popular. Opiates and opioids also assist with pain relief, making them popular for people who struggle with chronic injuries or aches.
The “best” part of an opiate or opioid high, though, is the euphoria they produce. They cause a blissful state of carefree calm, which is the main reason people use them. The “nod” (nodding off) caused by opiates is when the head droops and the user slips into a dreamlike state of relaxation.
However, it is easy to overdose on opiates and opioids, especially heroin. With such great inconsistency in potency between batches, the same shot you took yesterday may send you into an overdose today. The risk factor of opiates and opioids is high, but addicts settle for the careless euphoria in the face of danger every day.
What Makes Heroin and Fentanyl Such Popular Drugs?
Thankfully, in recent years, Ohio has worked to combat the excessive distribution of prescription painkillers. However, as a result, those addicted to these painkillers who are now unable to get them turn to alternative drugs like heroin. Heroin produces a similar effect to painkillers but is much more affordable and generally easier to acquire.
Even if painkillers are available, the lower cost of heroin lures many addicts in. As it is incredibly addictive, people then find themselves hooked to heroin and unable to quit. The process of kicking opiates is excruciating, especially when heavily addicted. In order to avoid the opiate or opioid comedown, people put off getting sober. Dopesickness is an awful feeling that an addict will do anything to cure.
Fentanyl can be made by those well versed in drug manufacturing and is then sold illegally on the streets. Though it is not as readily available as heroin, fentanyl is a dangerously potent alternative. Fentanyl is commonly put on patches and used to treat pain in specific locations, but addicts will simply chew fentanyl patches to get high.
What Is Ohio Doing to Combat the Heroin and Fentanyl Epidemic?
The Ohio Health Department is aware of the state-wide crisis and actively working to fight against its spread. They begin by working with youth to stop drug use before it even starts through drug education programs in schools. By educating students, they hope to keep young people from becoming drug users and eventual addicts in the future.
They continue to address the struggle with prescription painkillers by limiting the doses that doctors prescribe. Spokeswoman for the Ohio Health Department, Melanie Amato, reported that 81 million fewer doses of prescription opioids were given out in 2016.
Additionally, the state of Ohio implemented a freeze on the price of naloxone, a nasal spray that combats and occasionally eliminates the effects of an opiate or opioid overdose. By freezing the price at $75, law enforcement officials and emergency responders are able to keep an active stock of the life-saving drug on hand.
Due to the usually high cost of naloxone, many agencies are unable to keep a stock of it. Ohio hopes that the freeze will help officers and responders prevent overdoses to save more lives.
Although there is a long way to go before the heroin and fentanyl epidemic in Ohio is over, it is reassuring to know that active measures are being taken. You can help by keeping an eye on loved ones and looking for signs of heroin or fentanyl use. Maintain open communication with your children and ensure they are aware of the risks involved with drug use. If a loved one is struggling with an addiction, helping them find treatment can save their life.