EATON — The Preble County Mental Health and Recovery Board, the Eaton Police Division, and the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office hosted a Drug Awareness Seminar, Tuesday, July 8, at Eaton High School.
While there is no simple answer as to how the problem starts, there are several contributing factors to one person’s addiction to narcotics, including a family history of addiction, a history of mental illness, untreated physical pain, and peer pressure from others, according to Eaton Police Division Sergeant Eric Beeghly.
For prescription pills, which can become a problem when used “off label,” or when an individual does not have a physical prescription for the drug, or uses the drug in a manner that is not recommended by a doctor. For example, Vicodan,used for pain management, is an oral pill, to be taken as such. Many drug abusers will crush the pill and snort the drug through their nose, or even inject the drug intravenously. When used in this manner, the entire dose of the drug is administered to the individual all at once, whereas, if taken orally, is digested over a longer period of time.
Many pill abusers will take prescription drugs from a family member who has recently been prescribed the medication, or will take the drug from someone close to them. Pill users can also purchase drugs through ‘pill mills’, or a doctor’s office who over prescribes certain pills, and are then sold on the street.
Physical signs of abuse and addiction in an individual include, cycles of increased energy, restlessness, and the inability to sleep; abnormally slow movements, speech, or reaction time; confusion and disorientation; sudden weight loss or weight gain; increased irritability, agitation, and anger; cycles of excessive sleep; unusual calmness, unresponsiveness or looking “spaced out”; apathy and depression; paranoia or delusions; temporary psychosis, hallucinations; lowered threshold of violence; and looking for money, according to the Eaton PD.
Commonly abused pills include: Oxycodone, OxyContin, Hydrocodone, Vicodan, Dilaudid, Meperidine, Demerol, Lomotil, Nembutal, Diazepam, Valium, Xanax, Dexedrine, Ritalin, Morphine, and Codeine, according to the EPD.
“When you take these prescription pills, you get a tolerance for it so you need more and more, and it gets more expensive,” said Sgt. Beehgly. “So, you get addicted to the pills, you can’t afford it, and the drug dealer will then give you heroin which is very cheap.” Heroin, though less expensive, is a stronger, more potent drug, giving the user an “easier high” according to Sgt. Beeghly.
Heroin, white in its natural and unprocessed form, has been found in Eaton in a white to a light brown color and is stored in pill capsules which can cost anywhere between six to ten dollars per capsule. The drug can be injected, smoked, or snorted.
While the short-term side affects of heroin, such as a warm flushing of the skin and heavy extremities, may be appealing to users, it’s long-term effect is much more detrimental to the user. Restlessness, muscle pain, bone pain, vomiting, infection of the heart lining, liver disease, and pulmonary complications threaten the user’s overall health.
Eaton EMS saw roughly 20 instances where Narcan, a drug used to reverse a heroin overdose, in 2010, was administered for roughly 23 cases in 2011, 60 cases in 2012, and roughly 45 cases in 2013. “Narcan … is an opioid antagonist and is used for the complete or partial reversal of opioid depression. It is also used for diagnoses of suspected or known acute opioid overdose,” according to the EPD’s presentation.
“We’ve actually had some individuals that were completely out of it and we had to give them the Narcan, they come back and start breathing normal and are alert, and they actually get mad and combative with us because we took their high away from them,” said Sgt. Beeghly. “That’s how addictive this heroin can be.”
Imported primarily from South America, specifically Mexico, heroin is pushed through to the U.S. by Mexican Drug Cartels, according to Montgomery County Captain Mike Brem.
Cartels, specifically the Sinaloa cartel in Michocan, Mexico, will move heroin through the U.S. to “source cities”, cities where the demand for the drug is high, and the profit is at its highest. The closest source city to Preble County is Dayton, according to Captain Brem, which was not always the case. Five years ago, major cities in Ohio such as Cincinnati and Columbus were the major source cities, however, the demand in Dayton has since exceeded that of those major cities, according to Captain Brem.
The Sinaloa cartel brought roughly 200 tons of predominately heroin and cocaine into the U.S. in from 1990 to 2008, roughly $64 billion per year, generating a profit of $4 billion for the cartel alone.
Also contributing to the rise of heroin was law enforcement’s large crack down on pill mills, according to Captain Brem. When users were no longer able to utilize resources linking them to large quantities of pills, users turned to a cheaper, more widely available drug; heroin.
In 2013, 255 drug-related deaths were reported in Montgomery County, according to Captain Brem, averaging 21.25 deaths per month from illegal drug use; of those deaths, 168 were males and 87 were females.
Captain Brem referred to Sgt. Beeghly’s statistics on the reported 50 overdoses in Eaton, “Would you put up with that if it was homicides in your city?” he said. “If there was 50 homicides in Eaton in 2014, what would you be doing?”
A former addict, who wishes to remain anonymous, discussed her battle to overcome her addiction to heroin and meth. The former addict listed, in order, the things she lost due to her dependence to drugs; first, her self-respect, her friends, family, material things such as money, cars, her house, and eventually her freedom.
Formerly incarcerated for a total of three years, the former addict said the first year “was not real helpful, I was still very much going to come out of prison and do what I did. The second year started to change a little bit, I had a better attitude; and the third year I wanted to come home and do something different … The biggest thing I had to change was me. I’m the problem, I have to know that and accept that and do something about it.”
The former addict discussed her involvement with a 12-step program, saying, “some days are better than others, throughout this time in recovery it’s been up and down. There are days I still want to be selfish and self-centered, and everything is about me, and all of you do things to me. That’s not true, it’s a lie I tell myself … Today I have friends and I have my family back, and I have a car and a house and all that stuff again. But, today I appreciate those things. They matter to me. Through the addiction, they didn’t matter to me anymore, all that mattered was getting high.”
She said her addiction “is not something that will ever go away, it will never end. I’m always going to be a drug addict, I just don’t have to act. If you know people like me, there is hope and there is help … today I want to be clean more than anything else in this world, so I’m going to do what it takes.”
While citizens of Preble County acknowledge the drug problem in the area, no one felt the issue needed funding, according to the Executive Director of the Preble County Mental Health and Recovery Board Kelli Ott. A levy campaign for drugs and alcohol “to get some additional dollars in the county” for additional treatment options, however, the levy was voted down. “Which said, the county wasn’t interested at that point in time for treating people with a drug and alcohol addiction. The other thing that said to me was that I have a whole lot more work to do to educate people on what drug and alcohol addictions were,” said Ott.
A survey was conducted in the county, in collaboration with Wright State University, to better understand the collective thoughts regarding addiction to drugs and alcohol.
The survey reached students and parents in various districts asking their opinions on the matter. “150 (25.5 percent) middle schoolers and 590 (63.8 percent) high schoolers have had more than a few sips of alcohol,” read the survey results. However, 98.5 percent of parents said they believed their children had not tried alcohol. The survey also stated 113 students 6-12th grade are daily smokers, whereas 2.4 percent of their parents believed their children may have smoked a cigarette. “There’s a huge disconnect,” said Ott. “So of course no one’s going to want to pay for drug and alcohol treatment, ‘that stuff’s not happening in my home, it’s in everyone else’s home’ … it’s happening in your homes and people have to wake up and see,” said Ott.
“It has to start at home. People in your homes have to be the ones talking to your kids about drugs and alcohol, or it’s not going to end,” said Ott.
A white mailbox is located in the lobby of the EPD where an individual may dispose of unused pills anonymously. The pills will then be sent to an incinerator.
For professional help with drugs and alcohol, contact the Marie Dwyer Recovery Center at 228 N. Barron Street, or call 937-456-7694. For the nearest Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, contact Reid Hospital at 765-983-3000.