Hooked on Heroin: Exposing an Epidemic

ProMedica and Harbor present Hooked on Heroin, a weekly, three-part series exposing heroin and opioid addiction in Ohio and Michigan. Throughout the series, we’ll address how addiction starts, challenges with mental health and addiction and how agencies are addressing the crisis in our communities.

Heroin and opioid deaths in Ohio and Michigan are increasing each year, and unfortunately, there’s no end in sight.

“We keep attacking it and we’ve been attacking it for the last three or four years now. Hospitals, doctors, law enforcement, treatment agencies — we have not made much of a dent. And it is doubling again this year,” says Jim Schultz, Clinical Manager of the Alcohol and Other Drugs Department (AOD) at Harbor. Harbor provides mental health services to Northwest Ohio clients, including alcohol and drug treatment.

Opioid pain medication and heroin use often go hand-in-hand. Narcotic pain-relieving medications are one type of opiate prescribed for many conditions such as pain following surgical procedures. When patients misuse these medications, they run the risk of becoming addicted to the very medications prescribed to help them.

“The two things we saw going on with addiction is use beyond what the injury or condition was, building up a tolerance and continued use, and then we saw a pattern of doctor shopping,” says Schultz. The term “doctor shopping” means seeing multiple doctors seeking opioids for the same ailment, which enables those addicted to opioids to continue using.

Stricter prescription guidelines, coupled with an influx of heroin into the market led to skyrocketing heroin use and death rates. According to a report issued by the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services and the Ohio Department of Health, Ohio saw a 366% increase in drug overdose deaths from 2000 to 2012. Those addicted to prescription painkillers were suddenly cut off from their drugs of choice, leading them to seek out drugs with similar effects. Jim Schultz has been treating addiction for more than 25 years and says this trend is one of the most severe to challenge the field of addiction treatment.

“I’ve seen a lot of different trends and epidemics. I have not seen an epidemic in addiction that has killed this many of those suffering from addiction,” Schultz says. “We do not see a fear of these strong opioid medications or heroin.”

Harbor, in collaboration with the Urban Minority Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Outreach Program of Lucas County (UMADAOP), and funded by the Mental Health & Recovery Services Board, produced a series of videos addressing heroin and opioid addiction in our community. In the video below, you’ll learn more about the problem, hear from multiple sources on the rate of increased deaths, and understand how multiple agencies are working together to combat this epidemic.

 

If you or a loved one needs help with addiction and for a list of services, visit Harbor’s website.

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