Heroin doesn’t care whether you’re from the city or country, or whether you’re a teenager or a grandparent.
Addiction doesn’t discriminate, says Det. Greg Mehling of the Lorain County Drug Task Force, who has seen drugs take an increasing toll over the past 20 years.
“You used to usually find heroin users under a bridge,” he says in a documentary called “Heroin: Your First Time Could Be Your Last.”
“Now, it’s a 17-year-old girl from Grafton. It’s a 25-year-old mother from Rochester, or a 40-year-old professional from Elyria. This stuff absolutely does not care. It is addictive without regard to race, creed, color, national origin, or income level.”
The film, produced by the task force and Elyria High School students, was shown Tuesday at Oberlin’s Sacred Heart Catholic Church.
Lisa Goodwin, an addiction prevention educator at The LCADA Way, hosted the screening and discussed how stress can make people — especially students — more susceptible to drug abuse and dependency.
“A good deal of kids today are living in addicted homes,” she said. “A good deal of kids today have grandparents raising them and have lost parents or siblings. There’s a lot of stress and uncertainty. We want to provide hope. There’s a lot of rotten stuff out there but all of us have to continue to bridge these gaps and be open minded.”
Kerri Johnson, a Lorain mother whose 24-year-old son, Ryan, fatally overdosed in 2013, spoke later in the film about the long, heartbreaking road she watched him travel.
“After doing some research and looking through his room, we found evidence he had indeed been messing with illegal drugs,” she said. “That was when he was just turning 14. His first inpatient drug rehab was at 15 and a half. Anyone even contemplating doing heroin needs to realize you can become addicted the first time you use it. There is no magic number of times you have to do it before you’re hooked. You’ll go to prison or die from it. There’s no in-between.”
Like many others across the county, state, and nation, Ryan’s heroin addiction took shape through prescription opioids.
National reports circulated in December of major drug wholesalers such as McKesson Corp., Cardinal Health, and AmerisourceBergen shipping 780 million oxycodone and hydrocodone pills into West Virginia between 2007 and 2012.
According to CBS News, deaths related to oxycodone and hydrocodone there jumped 67 percent during that time.
Records showed those companies had sent increasingly higher dose versions of those pills to areas in the state hardest hit by opioid addiction.
Goodwin acknowledged that those practices have contributed a great deal in creating a national epidemic.
“There’s no question that the pharmaceutical industry has helped to fuel this,” she said. “Physicians are encouraged to prescribe. I mean no disrespect to pharmaceutical reps, but they have quotas. The United States holds five percent of the world’s population but consumes 95 percent of the worlds pharmaceuticals. What does that mean for all of us?”
“They give oxyxodone to that 13-year-old with shin splints so he can run in his track meet,” she said. “They give Vicodin to someone who just had oral surgery. We’re teaching our kids to take a pill and everything is solved. They like the sensation so the pills are kept around. They learn that they can still enjoy fun activities while injured through the pills.”
Tuesday’s meeting was the latest in a string of high-profile events aimed at fighting the heroin epidemic.
The next will be a town hall meeting at 6:30 p.m. this coming Tuesday, Feb. 7 at First United Methodist Church, 127 Park Pl., Wellington. Speakers will be county coroner Stephen Evans, The LCADA Way president Thomas Stuber, Let’s Get Real founder Kim Eberle, and the Rev. Paul Wilson.
Goodwin complimented South Lorain County LINC, a program started by Wellington police to help place addicts in rehabilitation centers.
LINC stands for Local Initiative Networking Compassion and was first announced by WPD Lt. Jeff Shelton last May during Wellington’s first heroin town hall at the Patricia Lindley Center.
“I want to see LINC or something like it in Oberlin,” Goodwin said. “What they’re doing down there is great and it really sends a message of doing away with stigmas that sometimes make it scary or embarrassing for someone to seek help who really needs it.”
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.
Photos by Jonathan Delozier | Civitas Media Lisa Goodwin, an addiction prevention educator at The LCADA Way, speaks Tuesday at Oberlin’s Sacred Heart Catholic Church on the ongoing opioid epidemic.