As football season heats up for the Bengals and the Browns, the state of Ohio is facing another concern that is more pressing then the next NFL win. That problem is the increase in heroin usage across the state that is causing more overdoses than ever before. According to the most current available Ohio state data, overdoses reached an all-time high in the year 2011, with 1,765 deaths. In the same article, it was reported that the suburban, upper-middle class and the young have become the biggest targets of the heroin dealers.
This, followed up by a recent article in the Columbus Dispatch newspaper, reports that more people in the state of Ohio die from overdose of opiate drugs (including heroin), than from deaths caused by automobile crashes, falls and suicides.
Why the Overdoses
When used in a small amount, heroin can be particularly dangerous. It also tends to be particularly suited to overdose situations for several reasons. It causes users to be especially prone to lethal overdose due to the fact users cannot easily measure the amount of the drug being used, and that lends itself to making a mistake. Another key factor of heroin abuse is that users tend to build-up a high tolerance over time, and if when released from a rehab or other situation where the heroin was not available, the user often shoots-up the same amount he or she was using prior to abstinence, and it results in an accidental overdose.
Also, users new to the drug frequently overdose due to being unfamiliar with their own personal tolerance level of the drug. And this is seen clearly in the the 2011 National Drug Threat Assessment issued by the US DOJ (Department of Justice) reports an increase in heroin-related overdoses in at least 30 of the states across the nation.
The Heroin Problem in Ohio
The state of Ohio has seen one of the highest increases in heroin use. According to the Associated Press, heroin’s increasing popularity is due to it being more affordable and easier to get than prescription opioids. An Ohio state survey of heroin users also found that the increasing demand for and use of heroin was due to the recent reformulation of the prescription opioid, Oxycontin. The reformulation was done with the purpose of making it more difficult to abuse.
Many experts state that the availability of heroin in the Cleveland, Ohio area is regarded as epidemic levels and is to blame. It has also been identified that the heroin abuse across the state of Ohio has increased just within the past six months. In fact, according to the Ohio State Department of Health, deaths involving heroin increased from 233 in 2008 (16% of all deaths by drug overdose) to 283 deaths in 2009 (20% of all deaths by drug overdose), and to a high of 228 (22% of all deaths by drug overdose) in 2010.
Why The Increase In Heroin Use?
Heroin is in the same “pharmacological family” as the prescription painkillers oxycodone and hydrocodone, as well as the drugs methadone and morphine.
As these potent prescription painkillers flood the market in Ohio and other states across the nation, the demand for purer heroin has boomed right along with the flood. In Ohio, the inundation of these drugs has cause drug poisoning deaths to increase statewide by more than 350% since 1999.According to an article on Cleveland.com, the director of the Ohio Department of Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services, prescription painkillers such as Oxycontin are essentially pharmaceutical grade heroin, and are the most addictive of substances a person can get hooked on.
The US attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, Steven Dettelbach, states that a number of factors play a part in the Ohio heroin abuse problem, including prescription drug abuse. He also said that drug purity, its price, and the “new purveyors” from Mexico play their part, as well.