O(high)O, Ohio Leading Nation in Opiate Abuse
Ohio is one of those states that creates a feeling of Americana. At least thats the perception of many coastal people. We think of it as a part Norman Rockwell painting part Springsteen working class anthem. All supported by the wholesome image of all American kids enjoying Ohio State football on crisp fall days. It’s practically a chevy commercial while eating a slice of apple pie. There is more to it, a grim situation of opiate addiction and subsequent overdose and death.
Ohio leads the nation in opiate overdose deaths. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation (kff.org), young, white, males lead the demographic for deaths. Many of these are coming from rural and agriculture based areas of the state. So what can be done? Is there a solution to suturing this bleed? There are many hurdles to getting help. Certainly access to and paying for services that will help is a barrier to improvement. Before there can be a public outcry for better and more accessible services, there must be a giant shift in attitudes and behaviors about addiction.
The current paradigm, shame and incarceration, won’t help this dire situation. Shame never helps with any addictive behavior and neither does incarceration. Decades of a costly drug war has done nothing but make Americans war weary while oddly still clinging to the promise of a drug free America. Our policy and relationship with addiction is flawed, it’s based solely on behavior and seeks to minimize a complex and multi layered problem with solely behavior management and modification. The first step in helping this problem for the state of Ohio would have to be a cultural shift In attitude and accepting that harm minimization is valid and saves lives. The city of Vancouver has had more than 2 million supervised injections with no deaths, and the ability to interface with health professionals for referrals to services for help. Could this fly in Columbus or Cleveland? Maybe in certain circles but likely there would be thousands more deaths before even a debate began.
Harm reduction must become an accepted model if we are to address the opiate crisis and save lives. We can no longer smugly dismiss the principals while forcing an idea that works for far too few people. The opiate debacle is decimating families and communities and there is a moral obligation to do better. If 112 people a day dropped dead of any other disease, there would be round the clock news coverage and the CDC would be in hazmat suits across the country. This can not be ignored any longer.
Author: Joe Schrank