Russ Kent: More heroin deaths; no solution in sight

I read with horror, on an almost daily basis, of accidental drug overdoses in surrounding communities.

As far as I can determine, those types of police/emergency calls are not dominating scanner traffic in Galion.

That’s good for our city. Nonetheless, the epidemic of drug overdoses is tragic.

Four more in Marion on Thursday afternoon; half a dozen last weekend in Mansfield, dozens in the past couple of months in Marion County. Many are fatalities.

It’s frightening. It’s horrible.

I don’t have an addiction to drugs nor alcohol. But I’m an emotional eater. I eat when I’m sad, when I’m bored, when I’m lonely. But I’m not an addict. My love for food is different that a chemical need for drugs. And while I know chocolate chip cookies, Pop Tarts, pizza and chicken wings are my enemies, I can, for the most part, control my urge to snack.

And I’m never afraid that a slice of pie from East of Chicago, or M&S Carryout, or Tubby’s will be the last thing I ever eat.

Drug addiction is different.

There is a chemical reaction going on in an addict’s body that requires something to satiate it. Their bodies are searching for something to stop the hurt. Unfortunately, that next fix, the very thing that can make the pain go away, can kill you.

That’s what is happening in neighboring communities. Addicts are using heroin that has been cut with something else. They have no idea what has been mixed with the heroin they are using. But it is killing people.

I can’t imagine the torture of drug addiction. You need a fix, but you know that fix may kill you … and the craving is too much to ignore. That’s the horror of drug addiction.

Not too long ago, I had no pity for drug addicts. I blamed them for their condition. If they died, it was their own fault.

I was so wrong in feeling that way.

What I feel now is empathy and fear and sadness.

And hope.

I have empathy because I realize drug addiction is not something anyone wants. You don’t become a drug addict on purpose. And once you acquire an addiction, it’s with you for the rest of your life. It’s a battle you never stop fighting. One lapse in judgment can kill you.

That’s where my fear comes from. I’m afraid someone I know may make one mistake, have a single lapse in judgment … and die because of it. That is a frightening, entirely possible, scenario.

The sadness comes from the angst family and friends of an addict must feel every day of their lives; the despair an addict knows and deals with, because they’re family and friends worry about them.

You can be clean for years, but have one lapse, and you can die. That’s so sad.

I have an acquaintance who is an addict. She’s clean now, for many months. I don’t know her as well as I’d like to. But I’ve never been so proud of anyone in my life. I admire her more than she knows. She knows she’s an addict. She knows what it’s like to have a lapse in judgment that sends life spiraling out of control. And each time I hear about another drug overdose I think of her and I pray she is OK.

This young lady has a wonderful support system. She has a partner she can talk to and lean on. She has family — near and far — who love and support her. Every member of her support group would come running to her side if she needed them. They are there to encourage her, talk with her, or just listen to her, hug her or to just be there with a shoulder to cry on. Whatever she needs.

But all addicts don’t have a support system.

Their support system — the only thing that will make them feel better — is a drug that may kill them.

It’s a vicious cycle that no one deserves.

But there is hope.

There is a drug, nalaxone (Narcan) that if given promptly to the victim of a heroin overdose, can save their life.

That drug is more widely available in Ohio than some states. First responders have it. Emergency rooms have it. Fire departments have it. In some cases, family members with sons, daughters, husband, wives or grandkids may have it.

The key to saving a life is getting the overdose victim help, immediately. Because many addicts abuse together, they’re often the ones who need to call 911 for help. But they don’t … for many reasons.

If you’re an addict, or a family member, there is no reason not to call for help. Dialing 911, or taking the victim to an emergency room no longer results in an automatic arrest. And it can save a life.

I am tired or reading about heroin overdoses. Too many are dying.

A stupid mistake does not have to be a death sentence.

I don’t know what the answer is to the growing scourge of heroin use, abuse and death. All I can do is let my friend, and others, now that I’m available to talk to, to lean on if that need ever arises.

What I do know, is the way things are now is frightening, and it seems to get more horrific every day.

Russ Kent



Russ Kent is editor of the Galion Inquirer, Morrow County Sentinel and Bellville Star. Email [email protected] with comments or story ideas.