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The Opioid Epidemic
The Opioid Epidemic

The Opioid Epidemic



The article I chose was a link that I had sent to me by the Marathon County Alcohol and Other Drug Partnership Council (AOD), that sends me a weekly newsletter about the drug epidemic in both Marathon County, as well as the nation as a whole. The article was found on Yahoo! News, with a linked video that was also provided by Yahoo! News. “Middleton, Ohio, a City Under Siege: ‘Everyone I Know is on Heroin written by Emily de La Bruyère, which also includes a video to go with the article.

The topic I have chosen is the opioid epidemic throughout not only the nation, but also throughout Wausau and surrounding communities. The above-mentioned article takes place in Middleton, Ohio, the exact center between Cincinnati and Dayton, Ohio, with a population just under 49,000 people. Growing up with addiction running in the blood of my family members, I have decided to go into the field of Human Services, in hopes to make our society better and be able to provide resources to those that need the help. Between 2010 and 2015, the percentage of people dying from heroin overdoses tripled nationally, as provided by Bruyère, E. This has caused the leading cause of accidental death in the United States to be caused from drug overdoses. I wish to better educate the society to make the world a better, safer place. I want the community to be rid of most of the addiction, and knowing that this is not only a local problem, but also a national problem makes me feel better in once sense. In another, it saddens me that our society has come to this and that there are so few things being done to help these people.


The article that I chose was very educational, even to me, considering I have had over ten years of personal experience with the demons of drug and alcohol addictions. Some of the things that I have learned really amazed me. I did not realize the problem has grown and gotten this much worse in such a short period of time. A couple of the main points in the article I chose were statistics, but they were extremely shocking, including the fact that for the first half of 2017, in Middleton, Ohio there have been over 51 overdose deaths, compared to a total of 74 for the entire year of 2016. At just half of the time, there has been 68.9% of those total deaths of 2016, meaning that the rate in which people are overdosing and dying is increasing at about 20%. Also in Middleton, Ohio, emergency response calls have increased 300% due to drug overdoses. Yes you read that right, three-hundred percent. This may have to do with the fact that addicts, and the general public, can now get naloxone over the counter. Naloxone, also known as narcan, is an opioid antidote, or reversal drug that stops the effects of an opioid overdose, such as slowed breathing, loss of consciousness, and even death. Now that this reversal drug is available over the counter, drug addicts have reported that they are more likely to try more of the opioid they are abusing because they know that they can now get this reversal drug more easily. What they don’t think about, is the fact that once they overdose on these drugs, they are less likely to want to come down from the high, as well as not being able to physically reverse the overdose due to loss of consciousness, or other serious effects of the opioids. Middleton’s government has made the guesstimate that they will be spending a minimum of $100,000 on narcan this year, a $89,000 increase from last year, when they only spent $11,000.

The city council and local government in Middleton, Ohio has proposed a bill that states that you have three strikes and you’re out. City Councilman Daniel Picard has proposed this bill to have first responders and emergency medical technicians to stop responding to these emergency calls when a person overdoses, leaving the overdosed person to die. In a direct quote, Councilman Daniel Picard stated “We’ll keep track of who we provided services to. The dispatcher will ask who is the person who has overdosed, and if it’s somebody who has already been provided services twice, we’ll advise them that we’re not going to provide any further services and we will not send out an EMT.” This shows that Councilman Daniel Picard believes drug addicts to be a nuisance to society. This statement alone struck controversy with not only the public, but also with emergency responders and local law enforcement, as these public workers made vows to protect the public, not to let them die, striking up even more controversy in the petition. According to Councilman Daniel Picard, the petition was meant as a punishment to those who repeatedly overdose. In addition to not being provided services, a first offense drug overdose would result in community service to repay the county back for resources used. A second overdose would result in two times the amount of community service, and finally a third offense would result in death. Richard Jones, the Sherriff of Butler County, states that the federal and state government provide no help with anything, which leaves them all alone to try to solve, or fix the growing issue of drug addiction. Gene Robinson, a recovering heroin addict responded to Councilman Daniel Pickard’s statement by stating “So you’re going to see somebody die right in front of you, and say “uh, he’s already been three times. Bye. Die.”” Gene was one out of hundreds that spoke out against this movement, in which councilman Daniel Picard later withdrew. (As he should, in my opinion.)

When asked, “are there other things the government or society could be doing that we’re not?” Jack Barrett, another recovering heroin addict, said that there needs to be “more education, because you want to prevent rather than treat.” This statement by Jack is especially true, considering more and more educational facilities do not teach the DARE program, or other programs anymore due to funding and simply because these classes and programs do not fit in the new academic fundamentals.

Relation of Information

Although I already have some experience with alcohol and other drug abuse, this article has really opened my eyes to the different ways things are being done to try and combat addiction. Over the years, the opioid use has gradually increased, slowly but steadily. It was not until someone crunched the numbers that we realized as a society that we have a very serious problem on our hands. This is an example of change blindness, which is when we fail to notice changes in the environment around us. Due to not realizing how much this abuse has increased throughout the years shows that no one really paid attention to it until they heard statistics showing how bad things have really gotten. Without the proper education, many people wouldn’t know that eating a lemon poppy seed muffin would cause you to test positive for opioid use, if you were drug tested.

Heroin is a very largely used opioid, and can also be called upstairs, tar (a strain), black (tar; another strain), and horse. While more pure potencies can be inhaled, heroin is usually used by smoking, or diluting then using a needle to inject in blood vessels and veins. After inhaling, smoking, or shooting heroin, a person usually feels the effects instantly, causing a reaction that is very closely linked with the feeling of endorphin release. Endorphins are natural neurotransmitters that are very closely linked to pain control and pleasure.

Morphine, another opioid is a prescribed medication that helps a person to tolerate chronic pain, such as back pain, and is often used as a painkiller after surgeries such as knee and hip replacements. If these drugs start the addiction process, or changing the brain in ways that it starts to crave that feeling more and more, addicts tend to go back to the doctor, say things are the same or worse, and request more of these lethal drugs.

In addition to the feelings of endorphin release, the body starts to act in a way of positive reinforcement. Positive reinforcement is the increase in occurrence of a certain behavior after a stimulus positively affects the person after the behavior is performed. Opioids, which are considered “upper” drugs, also called “upstairs” when talked about in public, in a slang term. The effects of these drugs make you feel good, not only about yourself, but also about the situation you may be in. While still high on these drugs, your self-esteem rises, and when you come down from your high, your self-esteem lowers. The constant rise and fall of your self-worth, make you want to stay on cloud nine more often and longer, causing you to start craving these drugs and using them both more often and in larger quantities, typically with higher potencies.

Choices grow into addiction, which grows into disease, can be explained by the foot-in-the-door phenomenon. This phenomenon is when someone at first agrees to doing something small and will comply later with a much larger request. In this case, when a person chooses to inject themselves with their drug of choice, they never think “hey, maybe I shouldn’t be doing this. I’m going to ruin my life,” and instead think of the here and now. I want to feel good right now. I need to feel good right now. This will make me happy. All I need is a little. Before they know it, these choices no longer become choices. They become the brains new way of saying “this is the only way you will ever be happy. Let’s go steal your loved one’s hard earned money to get a quick fix. We can repay them later. They won’t mind, and they probably won’t even notice.” After these choices stop being choices, the person is already addicted, and it will take more than a 72 hour hold at the local healthcare center for them to get better. The addiction will always be there. There is actually a commercial that I cannot help but to laugh at every time I see it. The man that comes on screen states that he “used to be an addict, but now he’s not,” which is the complete opposite of how being a drug or alcohol addict is. Or really any addict for that matter, whether it is kleptomania, sexual fixations or even the strange addictions to depression and anxiety.

Many times, it takes more than one intervention for a person to decide that they need and WANT help. Jack Barrett, a recovering heroin addict that was interviewed by Emily Bruyère, was talking about his brother’s addiction, and stated that “he wasn’t ready. You need to want help.” Coming from a recovering drug addict, it only shows that the speculation of trying to force someone to get help will do absolutely nothing besides make them to rebel against your wishes. On top of wanting to get help instead of it being forced upon you, it typically takes more than one twenty-eight day stay in a local rehabilitation facility for someone to be completely clean and sober. Every day is a struggle. The cravings are still there and the thoughts of things being easier “if I were just high” will always be there, like any other mental illness. For example, people with depressive disorders do not simply say, “wow, today I am feeling wonderful! I think my depression is cured!!” It simply does not work that way. Every single day of your life will be a struggle, and some days will always be better than others in the same way that some days will be worse than others. There is no magical cure, and if there was, there would not be a need for psychology because we could all be cured in one single way.

While these addictions start out as choices, addicts tend to use the scapegoat theory. This theory is the theory in which they push their blame on others, oftentimes stating that it is someone else’s fault that they have an addiction. For example, you hear a lot about addicts saying that it isn’t their fault that they are the way they are. Whether their parents were helicopter parents that never let them do anything and were constantly breathing down their necks, they were more likely to defy their parents and act in a rebellious way. Addicts also become very tactful manipulators and liars. They learn to manipulate people to get what they want, whether it’s a doctor and telling the doctor exactly what they need to hear to receive a certain prescription, or lying to their family and friends about where they are, whether or not they have a job and who they are with.

When there is an addict in any family, each family member’s role changes. Their roles, or the way they are expected to act based on a social norm, often change in varying ways. Personally, since addiction runs deep in my family, and I have seen first-hand how an addiction can change not only a person, but also a family, I have decided to go into the field of AODA (Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse.) Furthermore, my younger brother who has just kicked his personal addiction to alcohol and tobacco, has now become a workaholic. His ways changed when he realized he did not want to live the life of an alcoholic, and his way of occupying his time was to work more so he could think less about the nicotine and alcohol his body was constantly craving. My mother became more of a family-woman. What I mean, is she became our rock. The rock that kept us all grounded when the unthinkable happened, and my brother overdosed. Blue, no pulse, and not breathing. That would be the day that all of our lives changed forever. The day we realized we let things go way too far. The day we realized that we were so numb and emotionally unattached to the problem right in front of us. It was a miracle that he is still sitting here today, although even after being dead he still hadn’t hit rock bottom. It took yet another overdose for him to start realizing what he had been doing. The track marks, or scars from shooting so many needles into his veins, didn’t even make him realize that he was killing himself, and the demons of addiction had not only taken over his life, but they had also taken over his soul. Now, barely able to walk, he has to relearn basic motor skills again. The measure of memory that assesses the amount of time used when having to learn material for the second (or more) time. Who knew that walking was so hard to learn? Or basic balance skills?

It had become so normal and routine to lock our doors after we walked out of our bedrooms, even when we were home, or taking daily pictures of the odometers in our vehicles every time we got out of them, even if we were in our workplace’s parking lot or at the store. Things that we had been so accustomed to, that you don’t ever see unless there is an addict in the family, or a close friend. My dad? He’s still the hardened military man that demands discipline and order, but how could even he not see that my brother was slipping away? The constant games of running away, going AWOL for days or even weeks at a time had a huge impact on us as a family, emotionally, physically and mentally. The constant anxiety associated with private number or unknown caller calls on our cell phones, dreading to pick it up thinking only the worst things possible. “Your son/brother is dead.” But instead, it may just be a doctors’ office’s automated call letting you know you have an appointment coming up in two long weeks.

All in all, I think that society as a whole needs to come together and try to fix this problem before it becomes way too out of hand, more than it already is. We need more people who want to help each other, and of course we also need more public resources where addicts that cannot afford thirty-two thousand dollars to stay at Hazelden, an addiction treatment center located in Minneapolis. Even though this article was only published one day ago, it has gotten a lot of publicity, and there have been a lot of people who have become outraged at Councilman Daniel Picard’s petition, and want change in ways that will better society, not destroy it more than it has already been.

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10 Aug, 2017
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