The dragon bites back: the rise of the heroin epidemic

Dylan Webb is a teaching English as a second language major. Contact him at [email protected].

Dylan Webb

The heroin epidemic is hitting Ohio, and it’s biting back harder than ever. All over social media this week were the gruesome pictures of a couple in East Liverpool who had overdosed on heroin, a young child in the back looking on with horror.

According to the Ohio Department of Health, 1,424 people died of heroin overdoses last year, up from 87 people in 2003, and a more than 1,700 percent increase in just 12 years.

When I was a freshman, I was too innocent to think about heroin; it wasn’t a part of my world. Throughout my college years, I met plenty who experimented with the dangerous drug, some of who suffered greatly from it.

The heroin epidemic became a lot more terrifying because this very serious issue was now a part of my life.

A major problem contributing to the epidemic is how the addiction is handled. Shaped by the war on drugs, law enforcement repeatedly chooses to take ineffective policies against heroin users.

Recently, on the Facebook page for the city of East Liverpool, a post implored addicts to get their heroin tested for the Zika virus, which, in truth, can only be spread through mosquito bites. The post assumed addicts are gullible, but this is far from the truth.

Rather than belittling addicts, issuing warnings or dangers associated with heroin could save lives. Adulterants now commonly found in heroin, such as Carfentanil or elephant tranquilizer, can be extremely dangerous, with just a milligram making the difference between life and death.

Instead of demonizing addiction, it’s necessary that we examine patterns and trends that could lead to viable solutions.

We need to get at the root causes of addiction. Alienation contributes to the problem, and confronting this can drastically reduce the effects of heroin.

The money the American government spends on incarcerating heroin users could be used to fund youth-oriented, community-building organizations and provide exciting activities for those who would otherwise fall into addiction.

Activities like meditation, yoga or boxing can teach users to naturally control their emotions, reducing or eliminating the use of heroin. Also, people must be able to have access to Naloxone, a drug that stops an opiate overdose, to save the lives of strangers or even family and friends.

As a final note, the Kent State chapter for Students for Sensible Drug Policy, through Project DAWN, is handling out free Naloxone kits, as well as teaching a course on how to use them. If you would like to be involved, they can be contacted at [email protected].

Dylan Webb is a columnist.