Keith A. Reynolds
Lorain County Community College student, Jane Doe (who wishes to remain anonymous), is familiar with the dangers of heroin and all it can destroy. On any given morning, Jane wakes up wracked with terrible nausea and diarrhea. She’s experiencing the first symptoms of opioid withdrawal: dope sick.
“It’s kind of like having the flu but it’s a lot worse. You shit and you barf pretty bad. Your head hurts. You’re tired. You can’t get out of bed,” she said.
Jane first began to use narcotics when she was 14. She would take the pain pills supplied by her boyfriend as a means to counteract the symptoms of PMS. After two years of using them regularly she found herself without a supply and in the beginning stages of withdrawal.
“I always saw that dope was disgusting and that people that do it were disgusting, but just like anything else, the more you’re around it, the more it seems I guess, the more acceptable [it is],” Jane explained as she sat on a bench in the LCCC courtyard. “I had my friend who I knew used grab for me, ‘cause I was sick. I snorted it the first time; I didn’t use a needle at first.”
This first time sent Jane off on a course of addiction with the more than eager help of the local drug dealing community. “If a dealer knows that you wanna buy dope: they want your number, they’re trying to get to you. [The dealers are] trying to give you free [heroin], or give you a really good deal, ‘cause they wanna hook you,” Jane said.
Jane found herself spending more and more money on heroin until she topped out around $500 a week. That’s when she decided it was time to get clean.
“I kept overdosing. I would end up in a hospital, then they commit you, which is stupid, and you can’t leave the hospital. It was just a hassle,” Jane admitted.
Sadly, this sobriety only lasted a few years before she fell back into the cycle of drug abuse.
It’s hard to imagine overdosing if you’ve never experienced it for yourself. The very thought of it brings to mind visions of Ewan McGregor in the movie Trainspotting.
“It’s almost like being sleep deprived, like you’re just that tired and you just nod out. You just go to sleep,” Jane explained. “[If you wake up] you feel awful. Especially if they give you something to, like, wake you up. What do they call them, narcans or something?”
Heroin is a booming business; not just in Ohio, but in the whole country. In 2013 alone, the Drug Enforcement Agency seized 965 kilograms of heroin and 999 kilograms the year before, according to dea.gov.
From the years 2002 through 2011, the number of annual drug poisonings involving heroin doubled from 2,089 deaths in 2002 to 4,397 deaths in 2011, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
NARCAN (naloxone) is a drug commonly used to counteract the effects of opioids. Its use by members of the Lorain County Sheriff’s Department has saved over 47 lives. This stands in stark contrast to the amount of lives lost in the county over the last few years. Twenty two deaths have been tied to opioid use in both 2010 and 2011. In 2012 the number grew to an astonishing 67 before slightly declining to 63 in 2013. At this point in 2014, 40 people have already passed.
Jane’s experience, so much like thousands of heroin addicts across the county and country, is what officials have been trying to stymie.
Lorain’s Sheriff’s Department has tried to stem this tide of death and actually led the push to allow police departments all over the state to be allowed to carry NARCAN to try and save anyone who they encounter who is overdosing. A detail of officers went to the capitol to convince legislators to allow the life-saving drug to be dispersed to officers without prescriptions, according to Chief Deputy Dennis Cavanaugh.
This program also began to catch on amongst other local police departments.
“I know we’ve talked to probably over 30 departments, ourselves, seeking how we organize, run the system, how we got our guys trained, what program we’re using. We were very fortunate here because our county coroner, Dr. Stephen B. Evans, M.D. was a big proponent of that, and he was able to help get that program together,” said Chief Deputy Cavanaugh. “…he had to go ahead and approve for some of the RN’s of Lorain County Health Department to go ahead and to do the training at the sheriff’s office. So, they were very cooperative with us, ‘cause we had to get our stuff together real quick last year in October when we finally got the go.”
Lorain County Community College works with local rehabilitation centers to aid students with substance abuse issues.
“If we were made aware of a situation where a campus community member was addicted to a specific narcotic we would try to get them assistance that they need whether it’s, you know, on campus or off campus through LCADA,” said Keith Brown, director of LCCC campus security.
This seems to be a signal that local law enforcement is shifting its focus from just imposing the laws and incarcerating addicts, to trying to save lives while they focus on capturing the dangerous drug dealers who supply this poison to the masses.
As for Jane, a run-in with a narcotics officer has put her back onto the path to sobriety. As with any journey this one is fraught with assorted stones and missteps, but she tries to persevere despite them. We here at the Collegian wish her the best of luck.
Alex Delaney-Gesing and Olivia Moe also contributed to this story.