Thursday, August 27, 2015

Help for Addicts

Trumbull County Ohio Courthouse
Heroin and other narcotic addiction are on the rise in our country. Here in Trumbull County, Ohio, where I live, the felony drug cases out of all cases bound over for consideration by a Trumbull County Common Pleas Court grand jury has been steadily climbing from 32.7% in 2012, to 37% in 2013, 39.6% in 2014 to so far this year to 52%. In 2012, there were 36 accidental drug overdose deaths in Trumbull County, 39 in 2013, and 54 in 2014 and so far in this year only a little over half way through there have been 35 confirmed drug deaths with 16 pending. So far this year, 34 out of 35 overdose deaths have had heroin present. As high as it is in our county and the counties surrounding us, I’m sure it’s as high or even higher in other areas, although Trumbull County ranks sixth in the state for unintentional overdose deaths.

Some CDC facts: (1) From  2000 to 2013, the national rate for drug-poisoning deaths involving heroin nearly quadrupled from 0.7 deaths per 100,000 in 2000 to 2.7 deaths per100,000. Most of those after 2010.  (2) Drug overdose is the number one cause of injury-related death in the U.S. with 43,082 deaths in 2013. (3) The strongest risk factor for heroin use disorder is a prescription opioid use disorder. (4) Significant increases in heroin use have been tracked to people with private insurance and higher income.
Fifteen years ago, our county’s Common Pleas Drug Court, started a treatment -program-in -lieu-of-incarceration. It’s a legal process where individuals who have been arrested for a fourth or fifth degree drug-related felony may choose Drug Court treatment instead of various other legal consequences. Pleading guilty in the Drug Court and waiving certain rights is required.

Those individuals who are eligible must not have violent backgrounds or charges, including sex-related offenses and weapon charges, past or present. They also can’t be charged with a drug trafficking offense. They must be willing to admit they have a drug problem as well as willing to do something about that problem.

If they meet the eligibility, they are placed in treatment at the level of care they need, and where they have the opportunity for full recovery from the disease of chemical dependency. Also, if they successfully complete the program, the felony charges are dismissed.

To complete the program they must (a) agree not to use any mood alteration chemicals during their participation in treatment and the Drug Court. (b) Be willing to submit to weekly random drug screens. (c) Agree to attend all counseling sessions and complete assignments. (d) Agree to appear in court weekly to have your performance made known to the Court. (e) Agree to attend AA/NA/CA as scheduled. (f) Follow all the rules of the treatment center that they are involved in. (g) avoid criminal activity, and finally (h) agree not to associate with drug using people. Six people this month graduated from this program. Right now there are 100 people active in the program with 15 to 18 on the waiting list.
David 4th from left and his wife Paula next to him

I first became aware of this when I found out David Kapp, the son of my cousin, and his partner had opened up a facility called First Step Recovery in Warren, Ohio this year on May 5th. Less than a week later at my family reunion at my house, I had a chance to talk to David and his wife, who helps out in the facility, about their program. He and his partner are currently constructing another building because they have a list of close to 100 people waiting to get in for treatment, not only of drug, but also alcohol addiction. Not all on this waiting list have been ordered here by the drug court. Some come voluntarily because they realize they have a problem and want help for detoxification. The minimum number of days in treatment is 5 to 7, and the minimum cost for this is $2,700. David said Medicaid will only pay for 16 beds. A lot of people who come are poor so it’s another reason why the waiting list is so long. They have to wait for an available bed.
The facility of First Step Recovery
Talk about serendipity – the day after the reunion and my visit with David, there was a big write up in our Sunday paper about the Drug Court and First Step Recovery. He never once mentioned he and his business would be in the newspaper.

A doctor and other health professionals who work there

The newspaper featured a story about Danielle Burk, 29, the third person to enter treatment at First Step Recovery. She said she started abusing substances at fourteen. Alcohol was her first substance. She didn’t like it at first, and then found it was the only way to find happiness. In high school she was involved in volley ball, cheerleading and went to church. When her family discovered her problem, they tried to help by putting her in programs, and she faked being better as she hid her addiction. She dropped out of school and the alcohol addiction got worse. She started dating a heroin addict and felt at least she wasn’t that kind of addict. Then he died of an overdose. She was depressed and felt guilty. She started dating another heroin addict and started using that. As an alcoholic she’d worked three jobs, but heroin took that away. She’d tried rehab twice before she went to First Step Recovery. This time it worked. She said, “If you really want recovery, you will find it.”

Last fall, I blogged about a body I found in my woods. He was a suicide unsuccessfully trying to break a heroin addiction. The coroner told the son of the man I found that after an addict is free from heroin a month is when they crash. Heroin or opiate addiction was something I’d read about, knew existed, but had little personal connections with it. One other person I did know was a young neighbor girl; a great kid who played on the softball team of our local high school that won the state championship several years. She suffered a drug overdose because the pain medication for a back she’d injured at work wasn’t renewed. A friend started her on heroin, and she OD’d. That was some years ago.  In fact, I’ve read and heard a lot of addicts only start because of a discontinuance of their pain meds.  I personally know no one with the addiction, at least not that I’m aware of. However, from what I’ve read and heard addicts are pretty good at hiding their problem until it gets so bad they no longer can.

Have you had someone close to you become addicted to heroin or other substance abuse?


  1. I suspect every adult knows at least one alcoholic. I have known quite a few over the years. Some are in remission (none would claim to be cured); others died of their illness. I have also known folks addicted to pain medications as well as to various illegal drugs.

    It ain’t easy once you’re hooked; which is why they call it being hooked.

    ~ Jim

  2. At the risk of facing the charge of being shallow--I have to say I love the photo of your courthouse.The perfect setting for a gothic novel.

    We have drug courts here in Florida. From what I have heard, they offer a wonderful alternative for someone who is caught in a downward spiral to be able to recover and move on to a more productive life. As you point out, there is a screening process for eligibility as clearly, the option would not work for someone for whom drugs has become a way of life instead of a detour along the way.

    What a wonderful service your cousin's son is providing. If only there were more places like it for those who need it, and more cost effective, or subsidized, options for those who want treatment. Want being the operative word as you have pointed out.

    Know anyone with addiction. Yes, two people very close to me were both alcoholic. The illness, like any addiction, is insidious. I don't know of anyone with drug issues. At least I don't think I do. As you say, addicts become adept at hiding the addiction and continue to function at high levels for quite some time before they simply cannot hold it together anymore.


  3. Jim, you're so right about that being hard once you're hooked. Even though it doesn't cause the same problems as drugs - whatever kind they use - and alcohol, those who are addicted to cigarettes can't seem to quit that, either. I had a friend whose husband became an alcoholic after his mother died. It was horrible for her, and she left him for a time over it. That was enough to get him in AA, and straighten him out. However, I know that doesn't work for everyone. They have to really want to give it up.

    Kait, our original court house burned down sometime in the 1800's and this one was rebuilt. It is gorgeous, isn't it. A lot of our historical records burned with that first court house. One of our upper level courtrooms is the largest courtroom in Ohio. I learned that when Frederick Douglas came to visit us last year. Yes, he was a person who portrayed the original Douglas, and very believable. I don't personally know anyone on drugs, either, but like I mentioned, they can hide it. The woman who the article featured managed to hold down three part time jobs at a time.

  4. Great informative blog Gloria. Heroin is shockingly available in our community. Every single one of us knows someone who is addicted to drugs or alcohol. There's a lot of hard, hard work that goes into detox and recovery. Thanks for providing the sad details and the places for help, like First Step Recovery. Laura Byrnes

  5. Laura, working for First Step Recovery, you're seeing more of this than I am. How lucky you were to get a job where you're a part of addicts recovery, no matter how small your role in this is. Still, it increases your awareness of the problem and makes you more sympathetic to what they're going through and realizing these are not bad people, but people with a serious problem who want to get clean and lead a normal life.

  6. The father of the family which lived next door when I was growing up was alcoholic. Addiction causes problems for people with any connection to addict.

  7. Addiction is a sad thing. I've seen the effects of both alcohol and drug addiction in my extended family and I know the misery it can cause to all those close to it. I have a hard time giving up sweets (sugar is addictive), so I can only imagine how someone addicted to other substances struggle with it.

  8. A wonderful and thoughtful blog, as usual. Will you write updates on your family member's facility from time to time?

  9. Warren, it must have been hard on his family. I agree that the people who are connected with anyone who has an addiction suffers. In your career you must have counselled both the addicts and their families, I imagine.

    Grace, I don't think my uncles had an addiction, but I remember one Christmas night where almost all my father's siblings and children met at an older aunt's house, who never married. They were great gatherings until one year some of the uncles where playing poker, and whiskey was involved and there was a bit fight between a brother and a brother-in-law. My aunt then said no one would bring any alcohol to the Christmas gatherings. The brother-in-law never came again to them.

    Thank you, Margaret. I may do that. David is hoping that Medicaid will allow more beds, but like in Illinois, which I just heard about this morning, the governor has cut Medicaid funding to help addicts.

  10. Hi Gloria,
    As you know, the heroin epidemic has hit close to my home. I hope that your cousin's son's treatment facility will succeed, because there are so many people who need help. So interesting that pot legalization is in the news now. For many people that I know, that was the gateway to their child's hard drug problem. Today's marijuana isn't yesterday's marijuana.

  11. Shari, I have mixed feelings about the legalization of marijuana. I know my son, who died of cancer when he was eighteen, was helped tremendously by it when he was so sick from his chemo and couldn't keep anything down for days. I think there should be medical marijuana, but controlled enough that it doesn't become extremely expensive, or available to those who don't need it. Also, I don't think people should be thrown into jail for possessing it, but that's a catch 22 situation, isn't it. I worry about it in cookies and candy, etc. that children could get a hold of. I'm just glad I don't have to be the one to make those decisions.

  12. I had a friend from school who became addicted to drugs and died in his early 20s. He and his friends were high and drove off a cliff in Mexico. His family was devastated. I still think about him now and then.

    Sadly, I recently heard that many elderly patients are becoming addicted to pain pills prescribed by their doctors.

  13. How sad that was for the family, Kara. I know how the father of the girl across the road from me and her siblings grieved when she OD'd. Her mother had died a year or two before of cancer.

    I wasn't aware that elderly patients were addicted to pain pills, but if they're terminally ill, it is better than not prescribing them and having them suffer from cancer or whatever debilitating disease they have. My son had cancer in his bones and throughout his body, and when he ran out of his pain meds, he suffered so much. Fortunately, his doctor didn't take him off them. My ex is suffering from bone cancer, too, which has spread throughout his body. His doctor hasn't cut him off of the pain meds, fortunately.

  14. Coming at this from another angle, as someone who has suffered wkth chronic, and at times unmanageable pain - I do think there are times when fears of addiction get in the way of pain relief. It's very easy to become psychologically addicted to not having any pain - that's certainly true. And when I had a recent extended flare up of nerve pain I did get to the point where I was taking more drugs than I needed - in part because it was so long before effective medication was found. I was lucky to find a specialist who gave me permission to handle it myself - as knowing I could increase the dose if I needed to made it possible for me to reduce it, so that now I am managing without altogether. But I didn't get much support when it came to cutting it down.

    When my mother in law was dying she was refused medication that she needed to be comfortable - on the grounds that a - she might become addicted, and b - they might hasten her end. That seemed to me to be lacking in compassion, espeically as she was aware she was dying and had expressed a wish that it was over.

    It is complicated though. It's a very difficult balance.

  15. So often, a person who is addicted loses his/her personality and an "addict personality" takes over. Unfortunately, it's hard to recognize that when the addict is someone you love. People can't make good decisions (or really any decisions) until the drugs are thoroughly cleared out of their systems. At least a couple of months. Most residential rehabs are much too short. The patient doesn't out of the manipulative stage before discharge. It takes tough love to not become an enabler to someone you love.

    Narcotics Anonymous, like Alcoholics Anonymous, has a step program that works for some people. But, once again, it only works if the person really wants it to.

    I think one of the main reasons marijuana has been a "gateway drug" is because, since it has been illegal, the people selling it are the same people selling other illegal drugs, so the transition can be much easier. Since people can buy alcohol and tobacco, which are also addictive, from legal sources, they are not exposed to
    the more dangerous drugs.


  16. Ann, I hear you about the problem with chronic pain. My youngest daughter has chronic pain because of sciatic nerve damage as well as a cyst on her spine that can't be removed because of the sciatic nerve that goes through it. Fortunately, her doctor has her on a pain med that is not addictive and doesn't impair her in any way. On good days she takes maybe only one or two, but some days are really bad. Like you said, it's complicated and a difficult balance.

    KM, you are right about the short term rehab, but unfortunately most states have cut back on Medicaid funding for addicts trying to save money, when in fact in the long run if it helps in getting them off drugs, it will be cheaper in the long run because they won't be ending up in prison, and to keep them in prison is more expensive than seeing them through rehab, in my opinion. I never thought of that reason for legalizing marijuana. It does make sense.

  17. Yes, I know many people addicted to drugs and other substances. My Lakeside Porches series (contemporary romance) focuses on recovery, which is important to me and to many people I know and work with. It's hard work and a lifetime journey with miracles happening every day.

    Wonderful post! Thanks for raising the issue and asking the question.

  18. Thank you for stopping by and leaving a comment, Kate. Unfortunately, there are probably very few people who have had no contact with or know no people who suffer from some form of addiction. I only hope eventually it will become a problem that isn't as common as it is today. End it totally? Probable never completely, but if only it can lessen more and more just like the smoking rate has gone down.