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Sunday, January 26, 2014

Heroin Arrests and Symptoms of Illness

No doubt, the shocking number arrests for heroin possession and trafficking indicates the broad scope of opiate dependency and addiction in Scioto County. The apprehension of criminals involved in the illegal drug trade represents good work and meaningful, concrete efforts by local authorities that help stem the flow of opiates. Yet, with all the tireless and dangerous hard work done by enforcement, they deal with symptoms, not causes, of the real problem that plagues Southern Ohio.

We are an epicenter of a health epidemic sweeping our nation. The addictive personality of America continues to grow. Escape pain, eliminate problems, step back from reality, and stay "high" -- all in the name of trading chemically induced pleasure for inevitable reality. For many diseased individuals in Scioto County, heroin has become the opiate of choice with the same "big bang" once provided by Oxy's and other rx opioids in the infamous "Portsmouth cocktail" once served up by the now vacant pill mills. Legally assisted misery and suicide has been replaced by dealer-assisted remedy and the reviled drug, heroin.

You see, the opiate addict still needs the fix with the same "kick" once provided by the pill. Is it any wonder Scioto County didn't become Mayberry just because needed action was taken to change Ohio laws, convict unscrupulous doctors and pharmacists, account for legal distribution, and choke out pain centers commonly known as pill mills? I rejoice every day that these death mills are gone. But, addicts and dangerous illegal drugs naturally didn't magically exit with the flush of the excrement of the mills. The need will always produce some viable solution. In this case, heroin became the answer.

What once seemed to just be the fare of Hollywood films is no longer restricted to fantastical celluloid. The substance that seduced rich rock stars and celebrities with promises of unrestricted energy and pleasure is now commonplace in poor, depressed Appalachia. Heroin -- black tar and other forms -- has found a comfortable home in the land of moonshine, alcohol, and marijuana. It pours into our region, a place known for outrageous consumption of vice, from origins hundreds, if not thousands of miles away, and it sells here for local consumption. It can be ordered and home delivered like a Pappa John's pizza.

It is time to launch large-scale attacks on the causes of chemical dependency and focus most of our energy at the core of the vice. Now that the public awareness of epic heroin addiction is transparent, it is time for us to use massive doses of clinically based education, intervention, and rehabilitation to treat the diseased and to save lives.

However, just as important as full scale medical war on heroin addiction is psychological healing. A downtrodden, poor spirit convinced of a future consisting of spending a depressed life in an area of escalating decay will turn to false promises of lasting satisfaction. That is predictable human nature that wells from a tortured, imprisoned human soul.

That miserable soul often mistakes temporary bliss for eternal joy and happiness. Instant chemical pleasure serves to spur the idea that living "high" is better than living depressed. Permanent jobs, part-time income, criminal activity, dealing, bartering, abusing government assistance -- all of these become readily available vehicles to supply the "high" of heroin. The need is so powerful for the addict that the drug becomes the person. It becomes complete possession -- the takeover of reason.

What once frightened the majority about heroin -- the use of needles, the fear of overdose, forming a life-threatening habit -- has been nearly extinguished. Risk taking itself is the new religion of those who believe "living on the edge" is a passage through youth to adulthood. The hood, the bad ass, the bitch, even the popular brush arms with a venom that eats innocent spirits. To an addict, the substance becomes the sole companion and deity, more important than loved ones, friends, or the Savior.

I know why people do heroin. It makes them feel good and it makes them forget their troubling reality. It can lead to euphoria, peer group acceptance, sexual satisfaction, money, status, and attractive alternate states of existence. If most people value these things more than simple pleasures and enduring the inevitable pains of living in the real world, America is headed for a full-scale collapse from within which will make the fall of the Roman Empire look like a hangnail in the annals of history.

Face it -- we live in the most addicted nation, and we live in one of its most addicted counties. To stop the madness of heroin dependency and addiction, we must offer better alternatives and better hopes of a promising future to our citizens ... all of them from age 0 to age 110. Like all solutions, the answer begins with love and commitment. But that is only the stimulus of change.

To effect lasting change and kick heroin addiction, we must care for all of our neighbors. We must do more to extend the love of our family to the love of our area. While we increase our care, overdoses, addictions, drug arrests, and  prison terms will continue to occur.

While we endure the tragedies during this transition, we must dedicate ourselves to change our "heroin philosophy" -- not to accept the use of the substance, but instead to become concerned and to initiate a climate of assistance for those who do abuse. We must turn our beliefs that only subhuman refuse use heroin into a more positive philosophy as we accept the reality that good communities must begin to better understand the disease of those we have once ignorantly chosen to ignore and to hate.

We can and will continue to arrest, jail, and release those who possess and traffic heroin. This is good, but, at best, it represents the proverbial "finger in the dike" restricting the flood of drug abuse in our county. If this is the beginning and the end of the "care" of those with heroin addictions in Scioto County, substance use and abuse will get worse and worse here.

You must understand that people don't get "cured" as they are put under arrest or in jail. The few who do receive treatment are marginal offenders anyway -- they exit drug court living a day-to-day existence that helps keep them clean and away from stressors. The "hard core" will seek a fix the day the prison doors open to freedom and to opiate access. The vicious cycle of crime and abuse is evident.

You can legislate and enforce heroin addiction into extinction if you can eliminate the natural drive of human beings to seek pleasure. The funny part about this impossible task is that it may only be accomplished through treatments with other powerful substances. If those meds give addicts life and some quality to their existence, then accepting Suboxone, Vivitrol, and the like may be the best option some heroin addicts may expect (At least, at this stage).

I tend to think the real successes for heroin addicts occur when they commit to whatever treatment restores their broken, diseased bodies and simultaneously mends their severely damaged spirits -- possibly a combination of meds and intense counseling. And, we know spiritual activities definitely help a needy soul. Even one friend can help mend emotions.

The diseased person must be truthful with himself or herself in lifelong commitment and yet ever aware of the dangers of relapse. And, even more, these folks need active mentoring by a sympathetic community that listens and commits itself to providing an addict an environment that allows him or her to become an active, working, positive citizen.

If you hate heroin, you are not alone. But, do you hold the same hatred for other vices such as drinking alcohol or lying or committing adultery or skipping out on child support or smoking marijuana? Oh... you say, "But these vices aren't as bad as taking heroin: we should lock these addicts up and throw away the keys.

As judge and jury of sinful activity, you must be very wise. Perhaps, some of you wise people know a better way to stop the epidemic of drug abuse here because our present course of action begs for change.

Let me end this diatribe by saying this: I do not possess a bleeding, liberal heart; I believe in justice and in paying for wrongdoings. But, after researching and being involved in efforts to stop drug abuse, neither do I have a hard core mentality that police forces or isolated, totalitarian states can keep the flood of heroin from Mexico, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Burma, Columbia, and other countries from drowning the populace. Money is money; vice is vice; greed is greed. 

What Can You Do?

Every parent, grandparent, friend can begin a positive change by teaching children about the abuse of heroin. I believe the most effective learning is accomplished by those who teach good decision making and skills of logic. The young mind is fertile, and so many parents assume the right things are growing there. They are if you know and teach good coping skills.

* Ask yourself how many hours you have researched successful, research-based parenting skills to curb young dependency and addiction. What is your truthful answer? Most parents need to get busy studying.

* Next, ask yourself how many hours you have spent teaching your children how to make better decisions when offered drugs by their peers and acquaintances. What is your concrete plan for walking away from danger and temptation? Remember, this education must begin at a very young age to be most successful.

* Instill appreciation for the fruits of innocence, not the showy display of "growing up before the chronological clock." Twelve year old adolescents don't need to be "sexy" or "hot." Even though the kid may have a Lamborghini frame, he or she likely has a Ford Pinto mind. Don't "gas up their tanks" with Kardashian appeal "I'm ready for world" bullshit. Research shows that we don't really mature until at least our mid-twenties ... do we? Be honest with yourself and teach the kids the reality, not the fantasy.

* Ask yourself how many hours you provide alternative positive, pleasurable activities (not in organized group settings) to your children. Or, do you just badmouth Scioto County, its citizens, and its poor conditions? This rhetoric only adds to the negative concept of home experienced in spades by your kids. Show them the "good life" here.

* Listen carefully to what children say about drugs and friends and activities. I would rather have a free, open line of communication with kids, one containing some horror than a closed line leaving kids dealing solely with personal reflection. Adolescents want to take risks; parents must structure proper activities that present no harm but excitement and fun.

* Finally, begin to become an active role model in fighting drug abuse. Don't just be indifferent. Choose your role and be sure it is genuine and appealing. Don't expect miracles overnight. You are in the fight for the war, not just the battle. Even those with whom you associate have different ideas, and I think it is important to find your own niche to help the cause. Expect opposition but believe in your commitment to right. I have been called a "nut case" and a "fool" for my efforts, but I really don't care. I understand my role and my comfort zone. I continually adjust my stance as evidence pours forth. You can help by being receptive and open to the best and most timely research available.

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