The opioid problem is bad in the state of Ohio. Several weeks ago it was featured on 60 Minutes as one of four states with the worse problems. I know it is quite bad in Trumbull County, the county I live in, and the county north of us and south of us, although I think our rate is worse. From the map I looked at, it’s really bad in southern Ohio, too. Since 2010, Ohio has had 12,835 deaths, 68% men and 32% women.
Our county is fast passing up 2016 on 2016 OD totals. Our county coroner, Dr. Humphrey Germaniuk confirmed 60 people in Trumbull County have died between January 1 and July 22 this year from acute fentanyl, heroin, carfentanil, cocaine and mixtures of numerous drugs. Fifty other deaths since July are suspected drug overdoses, but their cases are awaiting the results of toxicology screenings and procedural actions.
The 110 cases, if all confirmed, surpass the 107-accidental drug overdoses the coroner recorded in 2016 in our county. And we still have three more months to go.
Many, many more have overdosed and lived since the beginning of the year, according to data from the Trumbull County Combined Health District and the Trumbull County Mental Health and Recovery Board. Thank goodness to first responders with Naloxone, often called Narcan.
In the Friday addition of our Tribune Chronicle, Renee Fox interviewed, April Caraway, the executive director of the Recovery Board. She said “We are grieved about so many preventable deaths.” She goes on to say, “The disease of addiction is chronic, pervasive, biological and all consuming. People who are living with the diseases of addiction aren’t ‘weak,’ as some people believe. Physiological changes occur when someone gets addicted to drugs. The path to recovery includes medical, emotional and spiritual help. We should never give up on them.”
I have a very good friend, Laura, who works at First Step Recovery, a place a cousin of mine started where the court sends drug addicts to recover. If any beds are available, First Step Recovery takes in addicts who want to be free of their addictions, too. Unfortunately, many all too often only stay clean for a certain amount of time before going back to drugs.
So many of these addictions come because they have been prescribed pain pills, and after a while, the doctor stops the prescription so they turn to heroin or other drugs for relief from their pain.
Some of you may remember the blog I wrote about a man I found hanging in my woods almost three years ago. He was a suicide, and I learned he had been fighting a heroin addiction when the man’s son and sister showed up at my door two days after I found his body. They told me he’d been a mason for 25 years lifting those heavy construction blocks for basements, and he ended up with back problems. His girlfriend, who was addicted to heroin, got him started on it. He had been free of it for one month, and the coroner told his sister and his son that addicts crash after one month of being drug free.
Last week a man from West Virginia was stopped at the end of an off ramp, and people kept driving around the stopped car, until a family stopped to check out what was wrong. The mother, Yasmin Rivera, was driving it that afternoon. Her daughter Chuarali Rivera at first didn’t think anyone was in there. Then she noticed the man wasn’t moving. Another car with a woman named Marlene Martinez had stopped, too, and asked her son, Mark Martinez if the man was still alive because he didn’t look normal. He was pale and shaking and the car was still in gear and his foot on the pedal. His doors were locked and they tried to wake him up. One of them called for help and the first responders broke a backseat window and revived him while he sat in the driver seat. He was taken to a hospital, and the next day he faced charges for driving under the influence, possession of drug abuse instruments and not wearing a seat belt.
Renee Fox interviewed both the Martinezs and Riveras. They all said they were surprised more people didn’t stop to check on the driver. “A human being is a human being no matter what, and deserves the chance to keep living,” Yasmin Rivera said.
I’ve heard people saying no one who OD’d should be treated with Narcan. Chances are they’d still use drugs again. I know that’s true, but when I look at the obituaries and see faces of young people in their 30s or under with it saying “. . . died unexpectedly in his/her home,” you know it was from a drug overdose and my heart aches for their families.
April Caraway said, “Addiction effects everyone in the family and our entire community is struggling with this epidemic. The individuals who have overdosed and those who have died have grieving children, parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters. Schools, first responders, counseling agencies, hospitals, the coroner’s office, businesses and so many others have been impacted by this growing epidemic.
I agree with what Yasmin Rivera said and it’s why I planted daffodils in the woods where the man hung himself. Not that it would bring him back to life but in memory of a man who was so miserable the only way out of his misery that he could see was to kill himself. Why in my woods? I’m sure it was because he knew about my path through the woods and even though I had never met him, his girlfriend, who started him on heroin, her property came up to the edge of my woods. Rather than have her little girls find his body, he figured I would, and his family would never have to wonder what happened to him. The only person I knew personally who OD’d on heroin happened at least a dozen years ago. She lived across the street from me, and had injured her back where she worked. When the doctor took away her pain pills, the girl she was sharing an apartment with gave her heroin. She was a good girl, and had been a top-notch softball player. Her team had won the Ohio State softball title for their high school.
In Sunday, October 8th’s Tribune, they had a whole page devoted to solutions for the current opioid problem that different local organizations are working on including some that seem to be working in other cities and towns that although not getting rid of the problem totally, have cut back on it.
As for me, I just want to go back to reading the obituary pages filled with people who had lived a long life and not younger people who died too soon from opioid drugs, and not having daily reports on the opioid problem.
Do you know anyone who is addicted to opioids?
Do you know anyone who OD’d and died from them?