The Adams County Counseling Center held a luncheon on Wednesday, Aug. 26, to highlight the growing problem of drug addiction in the southern Ohio region.
Ed Hughes, CEO of Compass Community Health, gave a presentation emphasizing the importance of providing rehabilitation and comprehensive health care to deal with the problem.
Drug addiction is becoming recognized as a treatable brain disease that left untreated eventually impacts every aspect of a person’s life. Understanding addiction as a disease allows the addicted person, and their family to embrace a solution that is based on proven medical science, as well as an understanding that treatment should address the individual’s physical, emotional, social and spiritual challenges.
“We have been responding to an epidemic,” said Hughes. “The number of people in the southern Ohio region who are suffering from drug addiction is staggering”.
In 1997 less than 5 percent of people in the region were addicted to opiates such as Oxycontin and heroin.
In 2000 there was an explosion of “pill mills” (area doctors who freely wrote prescriptions for narcotics). As a result the number of people who became addicted to pain pills went up.
At one time there were eleven known pill mills operating in Scioto County, consequently that county became the hub of distribution. Less than a decade later the problem had reached epidemic proportions. In 2008 alone 9.7 million doses of prescription opiates were prescribed in Scioto County; enough for every man, woman, and child in county to get 123 doses each of prescription pain killers.
These drugs were accessed not only by people in southern Ohio, but from all over the state.
In Adams County there was a sharp increase in the number of people being arrested or ending up in emergency rooms as a result of their opiate addiction, but their scripts were all coming from Scioto County.
The year 2008 was a landmark year. Ohio adopted legislation that closed down the pill mills. People who were addicted to prescription opiates began transitioning to heroin because it was cheaper and easier to access. There was also a resurgence of methamphetamine.
The game changer in Ohio came in 2006. For the first time in the history of this or any other state, the number one cause of accidental deaths was drug overdoses rather than automobile accidents. That got everyone’s attention. Those numbers then spread across the United States.
By 2012 the number of drug overdose deaths caused by heroin caught up with prescription drugs. Now heroin is the number one cause of overdose deaths.
What does an epidemic look like? In 2001 Ohio’s Department of Drugs and Alcohol and the Department of Health began measuring overdose deaths and the number of people being admitted to treatment centers with a diagnoses of opiate dependence. In 2001 the number of people admitted for heroin addiction was less than 5 percent. Today it is more than 95 percent.
It is vital that communities begin responding to this crisis by providing treatment for the afflicted. Addiction is a primary, progressive disease, which is best treated with compassion, understanding, and honest self-appraisal. It requires a health management continuum like that created by Compass Community Health and the Counseling Centers. Their program not only provides treatment for those suffering from addiction, but also addresses their needs beyond treatment by providing residential housing, prevention services, crisis intervention, outpatient care, and primary healthcare.
“One of the problems we had when we got rolling was that once doctors discovered that someone was addicted to the drugs they were prescribing them, they essentially would fire that person,” said Hughes. “It actually created more of a problem because the people would go to the street.”
Because addiction impacts every aspect of life, communities who step up and offer support to those who suffer from the disease benefit from the effort. “We talk a lot about addicted people and the chaos they cause in their communities, but not so much about those who are recovering.” Hughes noted.
Studies have found that people in recovery do very well and become very good citizens in their communities.
People in recovery have a higher employment rate than the general population. “Part of that is due to the recovery principles addicts have to embrace. You can’t continue to be the same person you were before recovery.” said Hughes.
“Recovery involves a lot of important principles and one of them is supporting yourself and taking care of your own responsibilities,” he added.
People in recovery have a significantly lower criminal activity rate than the general public. A study done in Scioto county found that among the people who get into trouble and end up in court those who have gone through treatment are less likely to show up in the criminal justice system again as repeat offenders.
People in recovery are also more likely to vote. The idea of embracing your citizenship and becoming part of your community is another outgrowth of adopting the principles of recovery.
People in recovery are less likely to use ER care, and more likely to have an employer health care program.
People in recovery are more likely to own their own homes and experience fewer negative financial events than the general population.
Most importantly people in recovery can pass a drug test. It is crucial that employers recognize these strengths and become advocates for those in recovery.
The Counseling Center in Adams County offers a wide range of services to help individuals with substance abuse, mental health and physical health problems. There are licensed chemical dependency and mental health counselors dedicated to providing treatment that helps people get their lives back on track.
The Counseling Center, Inc. is located at 210 N. Wilson Drive, Suite 101, West Union, Ohio, (937)544-5218. For admissions information phone (740)-354-6685 or 1-800-577-6685. Office hours are 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.