Heroin addiction and the general abuse of opioids has worsened in the US. As of 2015, there were over 20 million Americans suffering from some kind of substance abuse disorder. Within this number, there were 2 million people abusing or addiction to prescription pain relievers. There were nearly 600,000 people reported to have a problem with heroin.
In 2016, there were 64,000 deaths from overdose with 50,000 of those deaths being related to opioids. This shows that there is an increase in Americans with addiction problems. The federal government isn’t putting in as much effort as experts believe is necessary. At the end of 2017, Donald Trump spoke out about the opioid crisis being a public emergency.
There was a 90-day federal effort to deal with the problem but there was never enough money funded to the cause. They didn’t have any direction as to how they might fight against the heroin addiction problem. As of 2018, there has been $3 billion allocated to issues relating to social problems like the opioid crisis and “mental illness.”
The drug ad campaigns have spoken about creating less risky practices to manage pain. On a national level, there isn’t much improvement being seen. The talk of building a wall to keep drugs away from the US is not the answer. Why? Mexico will find other means of bringing heroin through the borders by simply hiding the drugs in their vehicle. On a smaller scale, there are local governments around the country that are taking matters into their own hands. There are also individuals that are looking to make a difference in 2018.
Lorain County Schools Joining Together to Fight Addiction
Something has to be done when over 1 million children are in their grandparents care across the U.S. due to opioid overdose deaths. The focus on the recent Superintendent Summit in May, 2018 in Lorain County, just north of Cleveland,Ohio, was all about the opioid epidemic. In Lorain County, there are many communities being disrupted by the problem. There are superintendents that have their own stories about losing family members to heroin addiction. The school leaders in the county are working with health and safety agencies in the fight against opioid addiction.
There was a lot of talk on how addiction to heroin has affected students while they try to learn the fundamentals of education. They are creating programs with a focus on convincing kids to stay away from drugs. The hope is that they won’t ever start so there’s no opportunity for addiction to occur. The leaders understand that students also have to deal with their parents and friends being addicted to opioids.
The school district has created a video, “Heroin: Your First Time May Be Your Last.” Some schools will add counselors to help further. There is also staff training so teachers will have a better way of getting through to kids or at least being able to read the signs of addiction. Teachers speak about how it’s not just an urban school issue but is happening in rural communities all over the U.S.
Addiction in parents is causing kids grades to slip at some schools. There is a shared purpose throughout schools within Lorain County,
The purpose: “In partnership with their local communities, strong public schools educate all students to achieve individual success so they can become contributing citizens.”
With this in mind, they are looking to help kids on an individual basis. Lorain County Schools are acknowledging the problem and taking actionable measure to make it better.
State Prison Using Vivitrol
In 2017, York County, South Carolina rolled out a pilot program that would take repeat heroin offenders and inject them with Vivitrol, a medication that blocks certain receptors in the brain, and it also helps reduce cravings. Instead of being sent to a state prison, Pat Sauble, the poster boy for this pilot program was accepted into York County Drug Court. He would later die within 24 hours of graduating from the program. Sauble was given Vivitrol to help him through recovery. Vivitrol is a non-addictive medication that prevents you from getting high from opioids. It lasts for up to one month. The drug also cancels out pleasurable feelings of alcohol.
“What the shot has given me the ability to do is to do what I couldn’t do for myself, all those times before,” said Sauble, a machine operator who at the time was living at a recovery house in York. “It took the drug completely out of play. There’s no thinking about it. It’s not there.”
He was one of a few people that received an injection of Vivitrol as part of a pilot program. It works by blocking receptors in the brain and reduces cravings. For those who have found it to work, it’s not a solution to heroin addiction. It is just a part of a whole program that needs to take place. This includes one-on-one therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and other holistic avenues.
Sauble started marijuana use and was also dealing so he could necessitate his habit. During his high school years, he was introduced to cocaine. He also started selling that. He did stay clean for one year, believing he could just abstain. He couldn’t. Years down the road, he became a recipient of the Vivitrol program. What he says is that it’s allowed him to really give recovery a chance and he’s been able to build up his support network.
It’s believed that the best candidate for Vivitrol is those that don’t wish to go back to using. Treatment courts will often refer users to the program. It will be expanded to the York County Prison, even for those who are there for a short duration. As of 2016, manufacturers of Vivitrol provided the first injection for free.
Inmates were given medical assistance, given the short for three days before released. Follow-up appointments would occur, which is a local drug treatment provider. The injection was considered the “right thing to do”. There was a lot of hope in Vivitrol saving peoples’ lives, which it has.
The belief was that in corrections, the success rate is quite low for the rehabilitation of all kinds. This includes drugs. The belief is that five successes are better than none. There was a lot of hope that Sauble would be one of the five that succeeded. Sadly, this was not the case. Vivitrol is not a permanent solution and counseling needs to be a part of the process. Triggers and relapses are part of life.
People must receive counseling as part of the pilot program, as they will not be on Vivitrol forever, said Antoinette Sacco, the CEO of Colonial House. “So clients, she said, will “need to know coping skills, how to handle relapse triggers and life on life’s terms.”
Where is Vivitrol being used in the United States?
Alkermes, the manufacturer of Vivitrol, says more than 300 criminal justice programs in 35 states are administering the medication.
Negative Outcome with Drug Court for Heroin/Opioid Wellness
The pilot program that Sauble entered into was a project many people believed could be an answer to the problem. There was a lot of talk and attention put on not only Vivitrol but also the holistic approaches (like therapy) that needed to work alongside it. Heroin rehab seems to be a lot more complex than anyone realized within the project.
Sauble, who was just 30, died within 48 hours of being released from the drug court program. He had graduated and was even given a certificate from the York County Heroin/Opioid Wellness Court on May 1, 2018. Everyone believed that he had truly overcome an addiction he’d been dealing with since the age of 16. The case is pending but loved ones believe he died of a drug overdose.
What makes this so tragic and perhaps defeating for those fighting against the opioid epidemic is he was featured in newspapers. He had supporters. There was hope and he was the beacon.
Sauble said in an interview in 2016, “What the shot has given me the ability to do is do for what I couldn’t do for myself all those times before,” Sauble said in an interview in 2016. “It took the drug completely out of play.”
Within the program, Sauble received 28 incentives (positive reinforcements). This would be anything from gift cards to lunch at Subway. He was well invested in the program so it wasn’t for lack of effort. It is a testament to how powerful the addiction is to heroin.
Stronger Six-Month Step-Down Program
In light of what happened to Pat Sauble, the program has determined that they will need to create a more potent step-down program. As the threat of opioids continue to increase and evolve, it’s important that programs continue to improve. The court is also expanding the amount of participants they take in. For those who are on methadone as medication-assisted treatment, they will be accepted into the program.
It’s also believed that part of the process is dispelling the myth that the struggle is done when someone graduates from the program. There is actually a need for people to reach out further. As they’re no longer under the strict requirements of the court, they need additional support. They should focus on using the support systems they built throughout the program.
Teenage Girl Fights Against Heroin Addiction with Babies
The opioid crisis in the U.S. is devastating. There have been positive stories in the midst however. Individuals that care enough like Sidney Depp can give everyone hope. When she found out that one child is born addicted to opioids every 19 minutes, she took action.
Sidney said, “Our family has some friends who had recently been certified to take in foster children,” the Springboro, Ohio, teen tells PEOPLE, “and their very first week, they got a call to care for a baby who had been born addicted to heroin. I had no idea that it was such a big problem, and as soon as I saw that baby, I wanted to do something to help.”
Sidney is now 16 and a sophomore cheerleader. She has spent two years running a non-profit for babies born addicted to opioids. The project is called, ‘The Love Project.’ So far, there have been over 2,000 baby blankets donated and decorated. The blankets are being used for hospitals throughout Ohio to swaddle newborn babies addicted to drugs.
Apparently, one of the best ways to give comfort to babies when they’re withdrawing is to swaddle them in a blanket. So Sidney made sure to ensure every baby would have that opportunity. She felt compelled to make a difference in her community.
Dayton, a nearby city, is currently the number one city in the nation for drug overdoses in the U.S. There are two other town in Ohio that made the top 10 list. She is looking to make her blanket project bigger through a GoFundMe campaign. She is looking to raise awareness that not all addicts have a choice. She also wants to help mothers that have addictions. She wants to remind them that they are loved. This is the efforts of just one teen girl.
Mother Educates People on Signs of Heroin Addiction
Here is another individual that’s taking action. A mother whose son died from an overdose has created a forum. It’s designed as a go-to for parents and also for siblings and those who suspect they have a drug problem. There is information about what addiction looks like. It helps people know what to look for. This mother was unable to see the problems in her son that were right in front of her.
She gives a list of symptoms that may potentially indicate drug addiction. It includes such things as:
- The child’s behavior.
- A change in friends.
- A change in activities (or lack thereof).
- Giving up sports.
- A drop in good grades.
While she does explain that these traits can be normal through the teen years, she goes on to talk about what addiction looks like. If parents notice something isn’t right, it should be addressed. She helps guide families in being open with each other. Ultimately, her forum is helping many to understand what suspicious behavior looks like, which could ultimately save a life down the road.
Parents Fulfill Promise to Daughter Who Died from Heroin Overdose
Brook’s House is a treatment facility that was developed by Kevin Simmers and his wife Dana. They built it in honor of their daughter whom they were unable to help. Kevin promised his daughter that if she stayed clean for a year, he would build a house for other women addicted to heroin. Brooke died of a heroin overdose when she was 19.
Three years later, with the help of volunteers and donors, they broke ground on Brooke’s House. It is designed for women struggling with addiction. Two of the board members lost their daughters to heroin over the past few years. A third member lost his father.
Simmers was a police officer who believed arresting addicts was the way to fight against drugs. When he realized his daughter was addicted to Percocet which became a problem with heroin, he changed his tune. She told him that she was shooting heroin and it broke his heart.
He tried to get her treated for her addiction. He fought with insurance companies. He struggled with addiction centers. Ultimately though, Brooke was found dead in the backseat of a car in a church parking lot. By Thanksgiving of 2018, construction of Brooke’s House is planned to be completed. By New Year’s Day, they should have their first young women admitted.
Local Filmmaker Offering Hope for Heroin Addicts
In East Liverpool, Ohio, there’s a local filmmaker looking to make a difference with his message. It’s a message of hope against addiction. His documentary is called, “Gateway to Hope: Overcoming Heroin.” It includes stories from individuals who have made it through heroin addiction. There are also pharmacists, paramedics, and police officers featured in the film.
Josh Menning, the filmmaker had initially thought that addicts make a decision to use and that it’s all their fault. Hearing the stories made him realize he’d been wrong. He came to see that everyone has their own story and even though they have this addiction, they are still a person.
The documentary highlight faith-based recovery. Addiction isn’t talked so much in the documentary. It’s a positive and inspiring take on growing through failure, overcoming temptation, and loving yourself.
Politicians and Their Plan Against the Opioid Crisis
Heroin is closely intertwined with opioids in the U.S. Historically, opioid prescriptions were given out liberally. When Obama realized the crisis across the nation, actions were taken against the amount of painkillers given out. The average Joe turned to the streets to feed their addiction.
Heroin became easier and cheaper to obtain than their prescription medication.
Now, President Trump is trying to fight against the epidemic. The plan is to fund the development of a vaccine that is currently working on mice and rats. Just saying no to drugs isn’t sinking in. Scientists know that addiction is not about free will or a flaw in your personality. It is a problem with the brain that needs to be treated as though it were an illness.
The vaccine would be a part of a multifaceted approach. It will be for people already addicted to heroin or other opioids. Specifically, people who are at risk of dying if they detoxed and relapsed. This is one of the main causes of overdose. The vaccine would prevent opioids from reaching the brain through the circulatory system. It wouldn’t interfere with other treatment to help people recover like buprenorphine.
How Philadelphia is Responding to Heroin Addiction
Philadelphia is taking action against the problems with heroin the community is faced with. The city is planning to set up the country’s first drug-injection site. The sites are supervised and are already being used in many countries. They have been helping to keep needles off the streets and nobody has ever died in a legal shooting site. Susan Sherman of John Hopkins University says these sites connect people to recovery. Between 2003 to 2006, there were 46% of drug users who entered rehab after using Vancouver’s Insite. This was the first legal safe-injection site in North America.
The city of Philadelphia is going to allow an NGO to provide a place for drug users to safely inject themselves with the likes of heroin. The users will be supervised, greatly reducing the risk of overdose. The users will be encouraged to seek out treatment. They will be given clean needles and naloxone will be administered if necessary. Naloxone is used to temporarily reverse the effects of heroin on the brain. It can jump-start breathing when someone overdoses.
Hope for 2018
There is money being allocated towards the heroin addiction problem in the U.S. It hasn’t quite materialized to substantial change in 2018. The change is coming from individual communities and people. With more people using and overdosing, it’s important that solutions start to materialize. President Trump was determined to fight against the opioid crisis. His current stance is to be tougher on criminals and ensure that less people get opioid prescription medications. This obviously will not be enough to touch the core of the epidemic.
There are many programs and ideas that are being conducted around the country. People are fighting heroin through positive measures. Schools are educated kids and becoming more aware of how to help families with addiction. Teens are coming up with ideas to bring awareness. There are new medications and programs to help people recover from heroin addiction. The fight against this potent, deadly drug takes a lot of effort. The government and organizations continue to work towards the solutions to this nationwide problem.
When someone is abusing heroin, they will require treatment to truly recover. At Northpoint Washington, we make strides to understand addiction not only as an epidemic but as a mental disease. Our highly trained staff use the most up-to-date data-driven methods to help those seeking recovery. Our residential environment is cozy and the support through recovery with addiction helps bring meaning to life.
We have specialized treatment plans for all types of addiction. Once detox has taken place, they start with counseling to help you understand the disease of addiction with evidence-based and wellness treatment. Contact us today if you or someone you love has a problem with heroin.
Please feel free to leave your comments below if you know someone who has taken action against heroin addiction in their local community. Please leave any questions you have regarding addiction or any of the stories in the article.