Heroin epidemic worsens into 2016

By: Hannah Sgambellone ~Staff Writer~

photo courtesty of abcnews.com | Norwood faces some of the most serious heroin abuse issues in the tri-state.

The Midwest is no stranger to heroin. Of late, the news has been peppered with stories of mass overdoses and batches of heroin being laced with elephant tranquilizers, among other things.

Recently, a photo of a couple who overdosed with their 4-year old child still in the backseat of the car has rekindled the conversation about the heroin epidemic in America. Cincinnati is an increasing hotbed for heroin overdose. From 2004 on heroin overdoses in Hamilton county have risen by 67 percent and the problem isn’t going away.

The drug is cheap and common in Cincinnati, as it is trafficked in from as far away as Mexico.

It is estimated that the amount of heroin in Cincinnati has increased about 40 percent over the last 10 years. In 2013, heroin surpassed marijuana as the most prominent drug in the Tri-State area.

Why is fighting heroin addiction so difficult? In short, the fervor of the addiction. Heroin is an incredibly dangerous, addictive opiate that alters the brain’s chemistry. Significant changes to the brains receptors make it extremely challenging or even impossible for addicts to receive dopamine that is not sourced by the drug itself.

Symptoms of withdrawal are violent and unforgiving, and methadone treatments only slightly quell the pain of recovery. However, many jails are not making strides in treating this addiction, and often addicts start looking for a fix as soon as they are released.

Last year, more than 13,000 heroin addicts passed through the Hamilton County jail system, and 300 ended up dead from withdrawal while in prison. These jails are only equipped for minor offenses and are not equipped to provide rehabilitation. This only perpetuates the epidemic, and to many, jail could be the last opportunity for recovery. The relatively quick turnover from jail time to probation offers little chance at true recovery, and prevention education within the prison system is minimal.

The areas surrounding Xavier are particularly fraught with the drug. It is common to hear jokes about seeing syringes on the streets of Norwood, however, there are steps students can take to protect themselves and others from the debilitating culture of heroin use. The Norwood Drug Task Force is a private group dedicated to stopping the spread of heroin in the neighborhood. By reporting known dealers and traffickers, the flow of drugs into the city can be significantly lowered. Additionally, anyone who is struggling or who knows someone who is struggling with an addiction can contact the Hamilton County Mental Health and Recovery Services at 513-281-7422.

Heroin is a drug that has plagued the United States for many years, especially as of the late 20th and the 21st century. Of all drug-related deaths, heroin is responsible for more than 50 percent, and in Cincinnati, the issue only seems to be growing larger. Over a specific 3 day stretch in late August, there were more than 80 confirmed deaths from heroin overdose in Hamilton County alone.

Despite the rising issue, several organizations around the city are dedicated solely to combating the issue. Hope over Heroin, an Ohio based network of pastors from the Cincinnati and northern Kentucky areas is one organization that has already held multiple rallies and marches in the Norwood area to raise awareness for the cause and for addiction networks to provide assistance, especially for poorer addicts.