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Friday, April 4, 2014

Scioto County Drug Deaths: 11 Years of Substance Roulette

“Imagine trying to live without air.
Now imagine something worse.”
―Amy Reed, Clean

On April 3, 2014, Scioto County Coroner Dr. Darren Adams released the 2013 Scioto County drug death figures along with statistics about fatalities over the past 11 years in the county as either directly caused by drugs or as directly related to drugs. Here is the information:

2003  12 direct drug deaths and 16 drug-related deaths
2004  15 direct drug deaths and 20 drug-related deaths
2005  20 direct drug deaths and 16 drug-related deaths
2006  21 direct drug deaths and 4 drug-related deaths
2007  21 direct drug deaths and 6 drug-related deaths
2008  21 direct drug deaths and 23 drug-related deaths
2009  22 direct drug deaths and 12 drug-related deaths
2010  23 direct drug deaths and 20 drug-related deaths
2011  22 direct drug deaths and 10 drug-related deaths
2012  15 direct drug deaths and 13 drug-related deaths
2013  18 direct drug deaths and 13 drug-related deaths

(Wayne Allen. "New Data Reports 2013 Scioto County Drug Deaths. Portsmouth Daily Times. April 3, 2014)

In a county of 78,153 people (U.S. Census Bureau), drugs have taken or contributed to 363 deaths in the last 11 years. That is an average of 33 deaths a year due to drugs in the small, rural county of Scioto.

Let's compare this figure with the leading causes of death in Scioto County.

Research from Healthy Ohio Community Profiles reports in Scioto County, an average of 895 residents died each year during 2004-2006.

The leading cause of death for Scioto County residents was heart disease during 2004-2006, causing an average of 282 deaths annually.

Cancer was the second-leading cause-of-death for Scioto County residents resulting in average of 186 deaths each year.

Consider the age groups of those who die from cancer and heart disease. Although these diseases mercilessly strike every age group, as a person reaches 45, the top risk of death is from cancer, followed by heart disease. Then, at around age 65, the risks swap: a person is most likely to die from heart disease, followed by cancer.

 (Kristina Grifantini. "What Are The Leading Causes of Death?" July 13, 2010)

Heart disease and cancer deaths are terrible, but drug abuse is killing Scioto Countians at epidemic rates. In 2010, Ohio ranked 11th in the country for most drug poisonings (not related) with a death rate of 15.9 percent per 1,000 inhabitants. 1,835 people died of drug poisoning that year at the rate of 5 deaths per day. Bad news continues.

The criteria for inclusion in drug deaths are death from overdose, death from organ-failure/illness due to or exacerbated by drug use, or death from suicide/misadventure under the influence of drugs. It is common not to include deaths due to drug-related crime in the statistics.

Speaking of the new report, Dr. Adams said:

"It is interesting to note that direct deaths from heroin increased from two in 2012 to four in 2013. Multiple drug deaths involving heroin increased from two in 2012 to five in 2013. Direct and drug-related deaths for 2012 included seven ethanol intoxication related deaths, and for 2013 the number included nine ethanol intoxication related deaths.”

Lisa Roberts, public health nurse with the Portsmouth City Health Department, said she was not surprised by some of the numbers, but called them stable. She said:

“The United States is going though a major public health epidemic related to heroin. The vast majority of those people (heroin addicts) were addicted to pain medication. Heroin has become such a replacement drug, Heroin can be fatal and you really do not know what you're getting with it all of the time. Just about everyone who is now using heroin was already addicted to oxycodone.” 

For those who need more help with definitions, oxycodone is a sem-syntheic opioid drug synthesized from opium poppy-derived thebaine. Purdue Pharma introduced OxyContin in 1995 as pure oxycodone for relief of "moderate to severe chronic pain."  In 2010, 122.5 tons of oxycodone were manufactured, according to the International Narcotics Control Board. This number had decreased slightly from the all time high in 2009 of 135.9 tons.

And, friends, ethanol is the intoxicating agent in liquors. I'm sure I do not have to relate any history or health concerns related to alcohol and alcoholism. We have plenty of dying alcoholics here. Ironically, many of them do not consider themselves drug addicts. 

The blame for the alarming figures of drug deaths in Scioto County rests with the lack of education concerning the highly deadly nature of these substances -- all of them. Whether someone sticks  needles full of heroin in their arm, prepares and swallows insanely dangerous opioid pain relievers, drunkenly swallows gluttonous amounts of whiskey and beer, or mixes various ingredients of choice and imbibes in life-ending Scioto County Cocktails, dead is dead.

By nature, we, here in Appalachia, are prone to an addictive nature. It has been part of our cultural history of normal operations for hundreds of years -- from days of moonshine production, to Copperhead Road marijuana operations, to the convenient pill mill outlets on the Northern boundaries of the OxyContin express, to the Route 23 Heroin Pipeline "feeding tube" from Detroit and ultimately from Mexico and Afghanistan.

I'm beginning to think all of the major movement to curb drug addiction in Scioto County is useless... until people discover the need to learn the facts. For years, I have written blog entry after blog entry attempting to provide pertinent information to end drug abuse. And still it seems death from abuse remains in the state of status quo. Evidently, it is the preferred state of the citizens in this county. I say this not in sarcasm, but in a statement of stark reality.

If you live in Scioto County, read these figures and don't really care, your indifference is a problem. You are not acknowledging your love for humanity by your inaction. Even if you and your loved ones have not been touched by the carnage of drug abuse, you must consider the less fortunate. Your Maker demands it.

If you live in Scioto County, read these figures and care but do nothing to end abuse, your inaction indicates you are not fulfilling your role as a responsible citizen. Good thoughts are not necessarily turned into good actions. No life-saving theory became practice without many people dedicated to hard work that took the theory and materialized the dream. Walking the walk is vital to success.

If you live in Scioto County, read these figures, care, and do a great deal to end abuse, you are warriors in a cause that evidently needs new, more forceful direction. You are noble, responsible citizens and caring human beings, but are you being choked by a governmental body known as the FDA that is largely on the dole and controlled by lobbyists, Big Business, Big Pharma, and politicians who could give a shit less about what drugs -- oxycodone, alcohol, heroin -- are killing people they consider acceptable, "friendly fire" casualties.

Am I cynical of the fight? Yes, but I am cynical in the sense that I believe the "hearts" of the warriors are pure; however, I believe the "heads" of the activists need to concentrate on educating the public to the real enemies in the struggle.

As the overall health of the nation decreases and the drug dead literally litter the towns all across  America, profit and greed fuel dependency, addiction, and graveyards because money is King and insane allegiance to the King occurs through the unacceptable mass stupidity invoked in the name of seeking pleasure through risky behaviors. It may be too late to save continuous suffering and death for this indoctrinated generation, but we must take better steps towards insuring our future citizens know the real score.

Good life for the vast majority is not chock full of pleasure. Despite media portrayals of the need to seek fashion, wealth, power, fame, and pills as anesthetics to suffering, we "normal folk" know our "good lives" are a mixture of pleasure and pain. In fact, the emotional and physical pains we experience help to increase our understanding and compassion for other human beings.

Getting drunk and getting high are temporary and artificial releases from realities we must face and conquer soberly to survive. Creating a lifestyle that depends upon taking substances to help us feel pleasure ultimately damages us and our loved ones beyond repair. The facts about the disease are available, and the cure is evident, there in plain sight for everyone to heed.

Feeding substances to yourself that release dopamine, serotonin and other lovely chemicals from the pleasure center of your brain can feel wonderful... for a time. Some say a chemical high from taking certain substances can feel like the Everest of orgasmic pleasure. Pretty enticing words for some very potent stuff? You bet. But the risk is the absolute to a person wishing to maintain euphoria. I believe attempts to keep happy and to avoid all pain are nothing but steps on a path to destruction.

What if all the residents here took a sincere interest in stopping drug abuse? How ridiculous is this thought. This will never happen. So, therein lay part of the solution. It is up to the educated, well-intentioned people in the movement to find the most direct path to improvement. The odds are stacked against these warriors because they must engage the most powerful enemy in the land to achieve lasting success. I believe that addiction is instilled by a government that cares less about responsible actions than about lining its pockets.

Drunk, high, and ignorant -- the freedom-lovers of permanent pleasure are nothing but slaves to those happy to control them as they greatly benefit from the users' dependent, insatiable desires. It's time we face the enemy, and the enemy is us. We are the enemy in our own weak powers of will. We must learn; then we must act; and, finally, we must be willing to fight attitudes in high places. Look at the death toll above, again. It shows no signs of abating. How do you feel?
"It seems to me that the duty to rebel is much more understandable than that right to rebel, because the right to rebellion ruins the order of power, whereas the duty to rebel goes beyond and breaks it."

  --Howard Evans Kiefer

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