A police department in East Liverpool, Ohio, sent shock waves through the internet last month when they shared chilling photos to Facebook of a couple pulled over in their car after allegedly overdosing on heroine.
A barely conscious man laid limp in the driver’s seat, his mouth hung open as the color drained from his face. The woman next to him, unconscious, began to turn blue as she slumped across the passenger seat next to him. A four-year-old boy, awake and alert, watched the scene unfold from his car seat in the back seat.
The chilling photographs offered a glimpse into the scene that greeted an East Liverpool police officer after he stopped the vehicle for erratic driving. The photos posted to the City of East Liverpool, Ohio Facebook page quickly went viral, garnering more than 28,000 shares on Facebook and thrusting the Ohio’s heroin problem into a national spotlight. They would become the new face of the heroin addiction that has plagued the state for years.
Chief Deputy Rick Minerd of the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office in central Ohio called the scene horrific, but said it was not uncommon for the state.
“There are countless kids out there whose parents are still addicted,” Minerd said. “It’s horrible to see photos like that, but there are still a lot of gaps out there.”
The Ohio Department of Health reported an increase in fatal unintentional drug overdoses from 411 deaths in 2000 to 3,050 deaths in 2015 – an average of eight deaths per day. Heroin overdoses, which have spiked during that time period, accounted for more than 1,400 of those deaths, according to the report.
“There’s been a huge culture change,” said Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine. “It used to be that, even people doing drugs, most would never think about doing heroin. It was a psychological line that they wouldn’t cross.”
But DeWine said that all began to change around 10-15 years ago when doctors across the country began prescribing more opioid pain medications in response to protests that they were not sufficiently treating pain.
“Pharmaceutical companies came out with oxycodone and other pain medications, and they did a very good job promoting them to doctors,” Dewine said. “There was a massive increase in prescription of pain medications.”
Users became dependent on those medications, he said. Once those became unavailable, they turned to heroin for their fix.
“We had a significant pain medication problem, and three-fourths of people using heroin started with pain medications, so there’s a natural progression,” DeWine said.
Fentanyl, a synthetic drug roughly 30 to 50 times more potent than heroin, is also to blame for an increasing number of overdose fatalities in Ohio. The opioid drug accounted for 1,155 of the accidental overdose deaths in Ohio for 2015, which was more than double its 2014 death rate in the state, according to the Ohio Department of Health.
“We now have a lot of fentanyl coming in illegally from… (continue reading)