Today’s opioid epidemic affects men, women and teens who often appear as healthy, functional individuals outside of their addiction. What’s worse, in Ohio, people who are abusing drugs aren’t the only ones being affected. Their families are enduring a difficult emotional rollercoaster related to the drug abuse.
“Many families are being impacted by opioids because those who are overdosing are sons, daughters, grandparents and parents,” says Lori O’Brien, administrator at Children & Adult Services, Lake County Job & Family Services. “All ages of children are at physical risk due to possible exposure to dangerous substances in and around the home and community.”
The opioid epidemic begins in the home and Ohio has been taking steps to prevent addiction, including getting the drugs out of the hands of would be abusers.
“We are taking an all-hands-on-deck approach to fighting this complex, ever-evolving crisis,” says Eric R. Wandersleben, director of media relations and outreach for the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. “Addiction does not discriminate. We often remind parents, your community is not immune. It isn’t just an urban problem, but it’s in suburban and rural communities.”
He adds that the state’s approach is multi-pronged and focuses on prevention, improving access to treatment, promoting recovery supports, cracking down on traffickers and educating prescribers about the addictive nature of prescription painkillers,” Wandersleben says. “Ohio has implemented three sets of prescribing guidelines; a new set of rules takes effect later this month and we’ve worked to strengthen Ohio Automated Rx Reporting System, our prescription drug monitoring program for medical professionals and pharmacists.”
The total number of opioid prescriptions issued to Ohio patients decreased by 2.5 million between 2012 and 2016, according to the Ohio State Board of Pharmacy’s 2016 Ohio Automated Rx Reporting System (OARRS) Annual Report. “There was a 78.2 percent decrease in the number of individuals who see multiple prescribers to obtain controlled substances illicitly between 2012 and 2016.”
Ohio invested nearly $1 billion to fight the epidemic by addressing treatment, prevention and law enforcement.
What can parents do to help prevent this abuse within their own communities and homes?
“Parents should be honest with their children when discussing this crisis and encourage an open line of communication,” O’Brien says. “Children need to know that if they are concerned about someone using, they need to tell someone.”
She explains, “this can be a friend, classmate or someone’s parents; they still need to tell someone. Children need to know that if they see drug paraphernalia, they should never touch anything and they should leave the area. They also need to be made aware of the dangers associated with drugs being tainted and that experimenting with drugs can be deadly.”
Sarah Moore, director of Start Talking!, a statewide preventative education initiative from Gov. John Kasich’s office created for parents and caregivers, says the mission is to encourage conversations about drug abuse.
“We always say early and often,” she says, adding that age-appropriate talks can happen in grades kindergarten through 12. “The value is start talking, based on national research. It’s cost effective and something parents can do today. The beauty is simplicity and (the parents) don’t have to be a doctor (to begin a conversation).”
She adds that something everyone can do as a community is to safely dispose of medications no longer in use.
“As responsible adults, you can model good medication safety,” Moore says, adding examples such as don’t leave medications in unsecure areas of the home and using good practices when taking your own medicines.
“The epidemic has evolved so rapidly and unexpectedly for the past few years,” she says. “There is not one specific pathway to substance abuse. This is something parents should be engaged in and push the community to help share that conversation.”
Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services (ADAMHS) Board of Cuyahoga County Crisis Hotline
Find more information or a treatment provider for heroin and other addictions in Cuyahoga County by calling this 24-hour Information & Referral Line at 216-623-6888.
Area ADAMHS Boards Information
To contact an ADAMHS board in your community, visit oacbha.org.
Lake County ADAMHS Board Compass Line
Connects callers to a trained triage specialist Monday through Friday from 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. at 440-350-2000. Beacon Health’s crisis hotline can be called anytime at
Ohio Crisis Text Line
For 24/7, confidential help. Text the keyword “4HOPE” to 741 741 to immediately be connected with a counselor.
“Start Talking!” Ohio Initiative
Resources and tips for parents such as “Know” a twice monthly, free email that contains current facts about alcohol, tobacco and other drugs, as well as steps they can take to help children resist use. starttalking.ohio.gov
County of Summit ADM Board Crisis Center, operated by Oriana House Inc.
Serves as a central system for those with a variety of alcohol and other drug emergencies. 15 Frederick Ave., Akron, 330-996-7730
Warning signs of overdose, etc. stopoverdoses.ohio.gov
10 Start Talking! Initiative Tips for Parents
1. Talk frequently
2. Show interest
3. Be careful what you say
4. Be careful how you say it
5. Know the facts about drugs, alcohol and tobacco
6. Be respectful and genuine
7. They talk, you listen
8. Scare tactics don’t work
9. Control your emotions
10. Take advantage off teachable moments
Courtesy of the Ohio Department of Mental Health & Addiction Services.