Heroin kills

Heroin kills. This simple statement is irrefutable, but given the shocking number of accidental overdoses and deaths from heroin and other opioid-based drugs, it’s clear the message isn’t getting through.

At least five Trumbull County residents died in 49 accidental overdoses in a seven-day period last month. That raises the total overdoses in September to more than 145.

At least five died and 55 overdosed in another seven-day period in March, another record-setting month in this crisis.

Since 2010, 336 Trumbull County residents have died from accidental opioid-related overdoses. That includes 96 overdose deaths in 2016 alone.

Now ranked seventh in Ohio, Trumbull County’s drug overdose rate far exceeds the statewide average. For every 100,000 people, an average of 34.2 people died in Trumbull County from accidental drug overdoses between 2011 and 2016. By comparison, the state’s average is 23.1.

This problem is affecting all of us in one way or another, and at least one local health and addiction expert is seeing a correlation with the area’s struggling economy and higher-than-average unemployment rate. At 8.7 percent, Trumbull County’s unemployment rate is nearly double the national average of 4.4 percent, according to July figures released by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.

April Caraway, executive director of the Trumbull County Mental Health and Recovery Board, said statistics show that high unemployment and high addiction rates tend to go hand in hand.

And other trends are being seen as well. William Turner, executive director of the Trumbull County Workforce Development Board, said he has noticed that drug use is permeating more parts of society than it has in the past. While drug abuse used to be considered a “young person’s problem,” we now are seeing opioid use bridge gaps by gender, age and race. And this, Turner says, also is affecting the labor force. That means an even further impact on our already struggling economy.

Simply put, when people seeking work cannot pass a drug test, they won’t be hired; and when businesses are unable to find employable workers in an area, they will look elsewhere. It’s a difficult cycle to break until the drug problem is solved.

Experts aren’t the only ones seeking answers and looking for ways to slow the dismaying trend.

Along with families of those addicted and using heroin, area news agencies — including the Tribune Chronicle — also are looking for solutions. It is, in fact, incumbent on all of us to find an answer.

At the end of the day, though, it’s up to the addicts to admit their problem and seek help. They can do that by calling the Coleman Access Center anytime of the day or night for an assessment, screening and program referral at 330-392-1100, or they can call 211.

For families of those using, Naloxone, an opioid overdose drug, and training on how to administer it can be obtained through the Trumbull County Combined Health District by calling 330-675-2590, Option 3.

Heroin kills. But if we reach and help just one person who reads this, it will have been worth it.

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