EATON — The Substance Abuse Prevention Partnership of Preble County (SAPP) held a town hall meeting to raise awareness on the heroin epidemic – as well as several other drugs – currently facing Ohio. The meeting was held at the Preble County Council on Aging on Tuesday, Oct. 27.
The meeting held presentations from the Eaton Police and Preble County Sheriff’s Office, as well as speeches from a Vivitrol advocate and Michelle Davis, a representative from the TASC agency in Preble County. The discussion closed with three testimonials from recovering addicts.
Tracy Morrison, the Vivitrol advocate who is also a registered nurse, spoke first. She had two daughters who have both been heroin addicts – one going in and out of rehab 17 times and the other serving time in a jail – who were unable to kick their addiction.
Both were on Vivitrol – a heroin antagonist that is injected into a patient every 28 days – and the medication has, in her words, “worked beautifully.” It is a two-fold drug, first reducing cravings for heroin and opiates and also blocking the opiate receptor, making it difficult for recovering abusers to get high. The drug isn’t a cure-all, but has been proved effective when paired with counseling and underlying treatment.
The treatment has been around since 2010 and was indicated to prevent relapse for opioid dependency following detoxification. It has been piloted in several counties in Ohio since early 2014 with promising results and the best results come from counties where the criminal justice system and medical teams have paired together to curb addiction, officials said.
Currently, Preble County is one of the counties in Ohio treating heroin addicts with Vivitrol.
She also provided results from a recent study of 250 heroin addicts who had been on the drug for at least 10 years. Half were given Vivitrol, the other half a placebo. Out of the 125 patients on Vivitrol, 36 percent never relapsed once and 90 percent tested clean when given a drug test.
“There are a lot of beliefs out there that you shouldn’t’ use drugs to treat a drug addict,” said Morrison. “We broke the record in Ohio – over 2,000 unintentional overdose deaths last year. Highest in history. They’re dying. No matter what we think, they’re dying.”
Next, the police and sheriff’s departments presented at the meeting.
“I think prevention is the way to go,” said Eric Beeghly, an Eaton police officer. “We can’t arrest our way out of it,”
Both he and Mike Spitler from the sheriff’s office presented the number of drug arrests from 2012 to the present time. Prescription pills were the biggest county issue in 2012 but heroin has far surpassed pills and is continuing to increase. It’s also leading the county in overdoses and overdose deaths.
They also gave a brief synopsis on the usage of Narcan, another opioid antagonist, that is used by the Fire and EMS departments to help bring back an overdose victim. The substance is injected into the user and helps reverse the effects of opioids in the system.
Currently, the police department does not carry narcan, but is used by the fire and EMS departments within the county.
Michelle Davis from TASC also spoke about drugs currently ailing the youth in Preble County and around the United States.
She spoke about two drugs in particular – Triple C and inhalants – both having large usage in youths. Triple C is an over-the-counter cold and cough medicine that is taken in large quantities and inhalants can be made from any compressed household cleaner or spray paint can.
Both drugs are easy to be shoplifted or easily found around homes, thus the large rise in young people.
Davis said that there is no drug test for inhalants and is one of the most devastating addictions out there.
“In my personal opinion, (inhalants) is the worst thing anybody can do of any age,” said Davis. “With inhalants, we’ve seen kids die with the plastic bag over their head. They didn’t live long enough to pull the bag off.”
It is also the fourth most-abused substance in young adults – with only alcohol, cigarettes, and marijuana being abused more.
Davis laid out a few signs for parents to watch for with their children if they suspect they are using inhalants: Stains on skin or clothing, slurred speech, chemical odor, constant red or runny nose, or sores and rashes around mouth.
Kids on inhalants can also have a sudden change in friends, dropping out of sports or clubs, changes in schoolwork, discipline problems at school, an increased secrecy about possessions or activities, an increase use of deodorizers or perfume in room.
She said to help keep children away from it there are a few simple steps parents can take to help the issue. Things such as setting some rules at home so they become familiar with following them, knowing where teens are and what they are doing – whose house are they at, does the parent know their parents, is it a trusted household. She also advised to keep teens busy in extracurricular activates or sports.
The night closed with three testimonies from recovering drug addicts, who all started out on pain killers. The pills snowballed into heroin and all three told stories of loss of everything – from custody of a child to the loss of possessions and even family.
All thanked the police department for arresting them and helping them kick their habit. Two of the addicts providing testimony are currently on Vivitrol and have since gained trust in their families and have both gained jobs recently while also piecing their lives back together.
One closed with this thought: “It’s by the grace in this community that I’m able to stand up here nine months later and say I’m still sober,” he said. “The entire community – the churches, the public – they all took me in and showed me there was something different.”
SAPP plans on having more of these town hall-style meetings but no timeline had been set for another at press time.
Jeremy can be reached at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @jerskine_RH.