Recent heroin busts in Warren aren't even the tip of the iceberg. This problem has been growing nationwide for more than a decade.
There is no non-addictive version of a heroin molecule; nor can one put lipstick on a pig and call it a lady. Even an untrained eye can see the similarities between oxycodone and heroin.
Oxycodone has been around since 1916, but it was only prescribed for the worst cancer patients and serious accident victims until 1998 when the Sackler brothers made ''prescription heroin'' socially acceptable.
The Sacklers used marketing techniques to encourage regular physicians to prescribe ''safe'' opiate pain pills, such as OxyContin (oxycodone), for almost any amount or type of pain. Perdue offered physicians free ''educational'' vacations at exclusive resorts with expensive dinners and offered lucrative speaking fees for physicians who would persuade their peers that new oxycodone pills are non-addictive because of a slow-release mechanism.
Yeah, right, and maybe if you eat three cheeseburgers very slowly, they won't have any cholesterol or calories either.
Dealers of opiates, and more recently pharmaceutical companies, have enjoyed this robust business model: opiate customers automatically become so addicted that they cannot stop taking the product without becoming violently ill. That's why, in 1984, Purdue Pharma sold roughly $45 million in opiate pain pills, by 2002 sold $1.5 billion in opiate pain pills and by 2009 sold $3 billion in opiate pain pills.
In 2009, more Americans died from opiate overdoses than traffic accidents.
In 2010, enough opiate prescriptions were filled to medicate every American adult for a month.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, by 2012 ''non-medical use of prescription painkillers cost health insurers $72.5 billion (annually) in direct health care costs.'' Meanwhile, in 2012, the legal opiate industry generated $11 billion in revenues for pharmaceutical companies. However, the benefits of prescription opiates do not justify the costs to society and certainly not the lives lost.
Once hooked, users are hooked for life, barring a miracle. Legal prescriptions don't get addicts high enough and since illegal pills cost too much, addicts turn to a cheaper version of the same high - street heroin.
A few years ago an acquaintance of mine in Warren confided in me that he caught his 18-year-old daughter melting and shooting OxyContin pain pills into her arm with a hypodermic syringe. The desperate parents did everything in their power to help her but she always relapsed within a month out of rehab.
Knowing she was from a good family, I decided to confront her
''I want you to tell me exactly how this nightmare began for you?'' I explained how it was my intention to share her story (without her name of course) to all of my high school students in order that they might avoid her mistakes. And what a dreadful story she told me:
''It all began my 10th-grade year with my boyfriend. He was older and so cool. He sold drugs and had a really nice car, so he was always the life of the party. We had money to do whatever we wanted to do and I guess I was having so much fun that I didn't see it coming.
''One night at a party he handed me a pill and said, 'Take this baby, it'll make you feel so good.'
''I asked him, 'What is it? Is it something that could hurt me?'"
Tears started rolling down both of her cheeks.
''He said, 'No baby, I love you. I would never give you something that could hurt you.' So I took the pill and my life has never been the same.''
The harmless pill turned out to be an OxyContin.
Two weeks later her cool boyfriend broke up with her and moved on to his next victim, although he continued to supply her for years.
Don't wait ... talk to your kids about this now!
Herman is a Warren resident. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org