Ohio Opioid Addiction & Drug Crisis
The United States has grappled with an opioid epidemic for more than 2 decades. Overdose deaths have quintupled across the nation since 1999, according to data published by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC). This includes an increase of 30% between 2019 and 2020 alone, and nearly 75% of the deaths in 2020 were caused by opioid drugs.
In Ohio, the situation is no different. Below, we explore the opioid epidemic in Ohio, as well as the many resources and options available throughout the state for those who need them.
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Ohio’s Opioid Epidemic
According to the Ohio Department of Health, the state saw more than 5,000 individuals die from an overdose in 2019, a 25% increase over 2018’s rate. Fentanyl, a particularly dangerous drug, was involved in 81% of overdose deaths in 2020. And while heroin deaths decreased slightly in 2019, nearly 500 deaths were caused by other natural and semisynthetic opioids, such as oxycodone and hydrocodone.
The Ohio opioid crisis started in the early 2000s, largely as a result of prescription overdoses, which increased 335% between 1999 and 2009. Near the end of the decade in 2008, data indicates that more deaths were caused by unintentional overdoses than by motor vehicle accidents, with the highest rate of overdose deaths being the result of prescription drug use.
How Ohio Is Combating the Opioid Crisis
Thankfully, state and local government departments are making efforts to curb this crisis. In response to the alarming rate of opioid overdose deaths, the Ohio Attorney General’s Office has worked with pharmaceutical companies to collect more than $800 million in funding to combat opioid addiction. These funds are funneled directly into the state’s communities to help those most affected by this epidemic. With this funding, community organizations and Ohio government officials can coordinate efforts in prevention and help those who need recovery assistance the most.
Ohio has also assembled the Governor’s Cabinet Opiate Action Team. This group pledged to invest more than $1 billion to combat opioid-related deaths in Ohio through reduced access to prescription drugs, increased enforcement and improvements to addiction services throughout the state.
Other efforts put forth by the state’s Department of Health, Recovery Ohio and community partners include providing free naloxone kits for college students, the Ohio CareLine, which provides mental health and crisis support, and a statewide Overdose Awareness Day observed annually in August.
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What Are Opioids?
Opioids are a class of drugs that include legal and illegal versions. Some are commonly prescribed legally to relieve pain, most often after surgery or injury, while others are manufactured synthetically by criminal organizations.
Why Opioids Are Addictive
When a person uses an opioid, they experience intense feelings of pleasure. This is because it binds to opioid receptors in the brain, causing a surge of dopamine — a neurotransmitter that plays a role in several neurological functions, including memory, mood and attention.
When dopamine is released, the body and brain feel rewarded, resulting in increased cravings and the compulsion to engage in continued use.
With regular use, the brain becomes accustomed to the presence of opioids and begins to rely on them for the release of dopamine and regular physiological functions. Over time, a person involved with heroin, fentanyl or other related drugs will find they require increasingly higher doses to achieve a high or even function normally, resulting in an elevated risk of overdose.
Types of Opioid DrugsMany drugs can be characterized as opioids. They may be natural, synthetic or semisynthetic and either legal with a valid prescription or illegal in all circumstances.
Opioid drugs are commonly prescribed by doctors to manage pain, usually following an operation or after sustaining an injury. They’re meant for short-term use, and to be used safely, they must be taken as prescribed. Long-term use of these prescription medications is dangerous, as is taking higher or more frequent doses than prescribed.
Prescription versions include:
While some opioid-derived medications may be legal for use with a valid prescription, it’s important to note that even those deemed legal are illegal to use when a prescription hasn’t been issued in the user’s name.
Other opioids are prohibited across the United States under all conditions, including:
- Illegally manufactured or distributed fentanyl
- Illegally distributed oxycodone
These drugs are frequently mixed with other hazardous or illegal substances, increasing the risks involved in their consumption. The possibility of overdose or death can be significant even after a single use.
Synthetic, Semisynthetic, and Natural: What’s the Difference?
Opioids are naturally derived from opium poppies, and certain ones, such as morphine and codeine, can be manufactured directly from the plant without synthetic processes. Semisynthetic versions are made using naturally derived opium that’s chemically processed to create a stronger, faster-acting drug. Heroin is an example of a semisynthetic opioid. Synthetic versions have no natural ingredients and are made using chemical processes to mimic the effects of natural opioids. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid.
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Recognizing Opioid Addiction
It’s not always easy to recognize when a person is addicted. That’s especially true if they’re using prescribed medications, which are often easier to access and misuse. Additionally, opioid users are likely to mask their use of the drug, either doing it in secret or lying about the amount or how often they’re using a prescription.
There are some signs and symptoms that could indicate addiction.
- Constricted pupils
- Nausea or vomiting
- Slowed, shallow breathing
- Slow heart rate
- Itching and scratching
- Needle marks
- Weight loss or gain that’s otherwise unexplained
- Isolating from friends and/or family members
- Neglecting responsibilities at school or work
- Stealing or borrowing money
- Neglecting personal hygiene
- Decreased interest in hobbies or activities
- Changes in social circles
- Secretive or suspicious behavior
- Drug cravings
- Mood swings
- Anxiety and/or depression
- Irritability or agitation
- Poor decision-making
- Memory problems
- Hallucinations or delusions (in extreme cases)
Signs of an Overdose
An overdose can happen when a person uses too much of a substance. While any person using an opioid drug could be at risk of overdose, there are several circumstances that can increase that risk. These include:
- Taking higher-than-prescribed doses of a prescription painkiller
- Combining an opioid with alcohol or an illicit substance
- Injecting heroin
- Using illegal street drugs
- Having health conditions, particularly with the kidney, liver, heart or lungs
In addition to taking too much of a substance, an overdose can also occur when it’s taken incorrectly. For example, crushing and snorting or injecting a pill that’s meant to be swallowed could result in the medication being released faster than intended, leading to an overdose.
If you or someone you love is using a prescription or illegal opioid, it’s important to know what an overdose looks like.
Signs and symptoms include:
- Difficulty walking, talking or staying awake
- Blue or gray lips or fingernails
- Small pupils that don’t dilate
- Cold or clammy skin
- Extreme drowsiness or confusion
- Choking or gurgling sounds
- Slowed breathing or no breathing at all
- Inability to wake up even when stimulated
How to Respond to an Overdose
If someone is overdosing, it’s important to call 911 right away.
While awaiting first responders, administer naloxone if available. It can be injected or used as a nasal spray to temporarily reverse an overdose. The sooner it’s given, the higher the chances of survival and fewer long-term health effects.
Aside from administering naloxone, other steps you can take to keep the person safe while awaiting help include:
- Helping the person breathe by performing rescue breathing or offering oxygen if possible
- Putting the person on their side in the recovery position once they’re breathing
- Staying with the person and providing blankets to keep them warm
How Addiction Affects Loved Ones
The consequences of drug abuse can be devastating for family members and friends. Parents, siblings, children, spouses and other loved ones in the addict’s life may experience an array of emotional and psychological symptoms while watching a person they love struggle with opioid abuse.
Feelings and emotions common among family members and friends of addicts include:
- Anxiety and stress: Concern for a loved one’s health, mental well-being and whereabouts while using often causes feelings of anxiety and stress for those who live with or care about an addict.
- Depression: Family members who feel powerless to help their loved one may deal with depression.
- Guilt: This is a common feeling among family and friends who feel they’ve enabled someone they love.
- Anger, frustration, and resentment: Feeling angry or frustrated about a loved one’s substance abuse is a normal and valid response.
An addicted person may fail to maintain healthy communication with those they love as they engage in lies or neglect their responsibilities. This can result in a breakdown of their important relationships. Those who love them may lose trust in the addict or feel they’ve been abandoned. This can lead to divorce or broken relationships with the people in their lives.
The financial strain of living with an addict can’t be discounted. Stealing or misusing funds to cover the cost of their habit is a common behavior among addicts. When financial responsibility is shared with another household member, this can result in unpaid bills and unnecessary stress on everyone in the home.
The cost of opioid addiction treatment that’s not covered by Medicaid or other insurance can cause additional financial strain.
Children’s Mental Health
Children and even babies who witness the erratic behavior of an addicted parent or loved one can be particularly vulnerable to the long-term negative effects of exposure to drug addiction. Issues they often experience include:
- Neglect or abuse
- Difficulty trusting others
- Poor academic performance
- Ongoing mental illness, including personality disorders
Resources for Opioid Addiction in Ohio
Ohio offers many services for opioid addiction treatment and prevention. Some helpful resources are listed below.
Administered by the Ohio Department of Mental Health & Addiction Services, the Ohio CareLine provides addicts and family members with 24/7 confidential support.
Recovery Ohio provides an array of information for individuals, families and caregivers to help identify and address issues with opioid abuse.
Naloxone Ohio provides free naloxone for individuals, community organizations and first responders.
Anchor Addiction and Wellness Center
Serving clients in Chillicothe, Columbus, and communities throughout southern Ohio, we provide outpatient opioid addiction treatment for opioid use. Our team features experienced addiction experts who provide compassionate outpatient care in a supportive environment.
Our Outpatient Program
At our outpatient treatment center, clients receive personalized care and case management services. Our program is ideal for individuals who:
- Need to continue working or attending school while in rehab
- Have completed inpatient care and require additional support or relapse prevention
- Have limited insurance coverage
While individual plans vary depending on the client’s unique circumstances, most people who enter our program receive:
Clients may receive medications such as naltrexone, methadone and buprenorphine to relieve or reduce withdrawal symptoms.
One-on-one counseling sessions help clients address the reasons they started using and learn techniques for coping with stress and cravings.
These counseling sessions can help clients feel a sense of hope. While working alongside peers at various stages of the treatment process, clients are able to share stories, coping strategies and support.
Designed for those experiencing extreme distress, our crisis intervention services provide urgent help and support in dire times of need.
All clients work directly with a case manager who offers assistance with housing, finances, employment and education to ensure success beyond recovery.
Get Help Today
If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, help is available to achieve recovery. We accept Medicaid, Medicare, and various other insurance plans. Call to learn more about our treatment options in Chillicothe and throughout the greater Columbus area.