A police chief, a judge and a mental health expert told Delaware City Council about the rise of heroin and opiate addiction locally, and how they are trying to fight the epidemic.
“Heroin is the most dangerous and abused opiate,” Delaware City Police Chief Bruce Pijanowski said at Council’s most recent meeting. “It is extremely addictive and has no legitimate medical use.”
Heroin’s side effects include blue discoloration of the skin, slow heart rate, lowered blood pressure, slowed breathing, itching skin, slowed physical activity and reflexes, slurred speech, pin-point pupils, droopy eye lids, dry mouth, and needle track marks and dead tissue from injections, Pijanowski said.
He said an opiate is a narcotic analgesic that depresses the central nervous system. Opiates can be derived naturally from opium poppy, or synthetically in laboratories.
While doctor-prescribed opiates are used for pain relief, many medications, such as Dilaudid, Lorcet, Lortab, OxyContin, Percocet, Percodan, Tylox and Vicodin are obtained illegally and abused, Pijanowsky said.
He said that there were 1,881,916 doses of opiates were dispensed in the fourth quarter of 2013 in Delaware County. “That amounts to an average of nearly 128 doses per patient and almost 11 doses per person for the entire population. It is significantly lower than the statewide average of 154 doses per patient and 27 doses per person.”
He said that the prescription opiates are a gateway to heroin use, and that in the 2009-10 school year, 3.5 percent of high school students in Delaware County reported using heroin.
And according to the short film, “Little Pill, Big Problem: Ohio’s Opiate Story,” since 2007, more Ohioans have died from overdoses than in motor vehicle crashes.
Pijanowski said the Delaware Police have two detectives assigned full-time to the drug task force and two full-time School Resource Officers who teach students to avoid drugs and gangs. The police’s community outreach to youth includes basketball camp, open gym and, coming this summer, a martial arts camp.
In addition, Pijanowski said a change in patrol strategies has resulted in fewer thefts and an increase in possession arrests.
“A high percentage of crimes are fueled to get cash to buy heroin,” Pijanowski said. “We’re making a difference.”
Delaware County Opiate Task Force co-chairs Delaware Municipal Judge David Sunderman, and Delaware-Morrow Mental Health and Recovery Services Board Executive Director Steve Hedge also spoke during the presentation.
They said among the police strategies is the use of the “wonder drug” Narcan. which has been used to bring overdose victims back to life; a part-time chaplain at the county jail; cracking down on pill mills and over-prescribing; and providing treatment sooner in the process.
In addition, the public was urged to throw outdated or unused meds in drop boxes at the police department, 70 N. Union St.; the Delaware County Jail, 844 US 42 N.; the Genoa Township Police Department, 7049 Big Walnut Rd., Galena; and the Shawnee Hills Police Department, 40 W. Reindeer Dr., Shawnee Hills.
“We have to have a multilevel approach, because it’s not going away,” Hedge said.
“This is a statewide and nationwide issue,” Sunderman said. “Our major goal is to educate the public.”