Help is available for heroin users

Part three of a three-day series.
Andy Ouriel
Dec 17, 2013


Tourism officials market north central Ohio as a destination for vacationers.

Countless attractions — roller coasters, water parks, boating and island life, among many others — lure about 7 million people to Erie and Ottawa counties each year.

But mental health officials label the area as a hotbed for heroin abuse.

The H Factor
A special three-day Register series looking at the impact of the heroin epidemic in Erie County
SUNDAY: Smack — Children displaced by drug use.
MONDAY: Big H — Users crowd jail
TODAY: Brown Sugar — Mental health and addiction.

Heroin’s considered a “highly available” drug anywhere along the North Coast, according to a recent study by officials from the Mental Health and Recovery Board of Erie and Ottawa Counties.

In fact, about 150 clients requesting board services this past year divulged using heroin, opiates or some other synthetic drug — a record amount in the region.

“This is the highest I have ever seen,” said Kirk Halliday, the board’s executive director.

Among other information provided in a year-end board report:

• Heroin ranked a “10” on an 11-point scale of how available it is on the streets of Erie and Ottawa counties. A “10” means “easy” and a “0” translates to “impossible”

• About 1.3 Erie County residents per 100,000 people died from heroin poisoning in 2011.

No cases of heroin poisoning occurred in Erie County from 2002 to 2010.

• About 2.4 Ottawa County residents per 100,000 people died from heroin poisoning in 2011.

No area facility nor local hospital specializes in treating people with alcohol or serious drug addictions, including heroin, Halliday said.

Therefore, it’s tougher to battle addictions and keep people sober.

“The lack of an addiction treatment center in Erie or Ottawa counties is problematic,” Halliday said. “The real difficulty is not getting someone into a residential setting. What happens, after they leave a center, they pick up on their old activities and learn new habits that make the difference of a person not being able to kick the heroin addiction”

Despite the lack of regional specialized facilities, there’s an obvious need for them.

Among the local residents advocating for centers and education on heroin abuse is Vermilion resident Melva Sherwood.

Her son, Andrew Weaver, died in October 2012 at age 27 from a heroin overdose.

Since then, she’s spearheaded a grassroots effort to comfort other mothers losing children to heroin addictions.

She also wants to open a community center, where family members of addicts can meet and receive help or vent about someone they love who’s suffering from an addiction.

“Our kids are dying,” Sherwood said. “We need to help people that are addicts so they can recover. They’re not criminals. They’re not the pits of our society. They are human beings, and they need to be treated as such”

By the numbers: Heroin impacting Erie and Ottawa counties’ mental health communities
• 150: Clients receiving services from this past year who used heroin or some other opiate or synthetic drug — a record.
• 10: Rating — on a 10-point scale, with “10” being “easy” and “0” as “impossible” — of how available heroin, opiates and synthetic drugs are in Erie and Ottawa counties, according to a recent study.
• 1.3: Erie County residents dying, per 100,000 people, from heroin poisoning in 2011 — a record.
• 2.4: Ottawa County residents dying, per 100,000 people, from heroin poisoning in 2011 — a record.

Source: Mental Health and Recovery Board of Erie and Ottawa Counties



Some of them are criminals and frankly I don't feel sorry for drug addicts. There are families struggling just to make ends meet that I feel is a more important cause. After all, drug use is preventable.

J. Hartman

People get addicted for different reasons and I'm positive no one has ever woke up, looked at their to do list, and said "Looky here, #2 today is become an addict" Fairly certain that has never happened! However you used the word "families" the family is where this is preventable and begins. Unfortunately, over the past 4 generations the family structure has dissolved. Not one single thing can be pointed to as the issue, but it does begin in the home/family.

Licorice Schtick

Alcohol is the #1 cause of addiction to illegal drugs. It makes people stupid enough to try them.

J. Hartman

Valid point, but even that begins with the family structure or lack there of. No matter what the individual reason is, tossing people(addict) into the prison system is not the answer. Drug dealers, crooked physicians, and pharmacists without morals should definitely go bye bye for a while. For the addict, help/support is needed and not jail time. Our jails/prisons are not medical facilities and are not set up to operate as one. You throw an addict behind bars and there will be medical issues the jail staff can not address. Withdrawal in itself can kill a person, then there are the mental issues, and a long list of other potential issues. That inmate has to be transported back and forth to whatever medical facility because now they are the institutions problem and by law have to address those medical needs/concerns. Who pays for that? Yep, you! Once they do get out, most likely they will be right back behind bars in a short period of time, because they are basically thrown right back into the environment that got them there in the first place. So why not try to get the addict the medical/mental help they need(obviously can't skate on any other crimes they may have committed) and help them to transition back into society after completion of a recovery program? Key there is continued follow up after completion to prevent relapse. Save the jail cells for the dealers(including corrupt doctors), manufacturers, paraphernalia makers/sellers, and the Teflon Don's we call pharmaceutical companies which I believe HARMaceuticals is more accurate. In the long run, with all things being considered, helping an addict recover and then transition back into society will not only be cheaper from a cost standpoint, it will hopefully also bring in another productive individual into the community. I know many will disagree with my words, but just my opinion and I think it sounds a hell of a lot better of an approach then keeping the revolving door in constant use.

White Owl

I agree with almost everything you stated except that you omitted corrupt law enforcement officers, attorneys, prosecutors, and court personnel, many of whom if not users themselves financially benefit from the drug trafficking industry. Which is why decriminalization is the solution.


It does go back to being PREVENTABLE. Alcohol, drugs. It is preventable. It is a CHOICE. I for one am sick of people calling it a disease. (I know, I know it is a disease termed by the medical community) Something that you CHOOSE TO DO is a little bit different than a child dying from cancer, different than someone with MS, different than someone dying from Lou Gehrig's.


if you keep making sense like that you'll hurt some junkie's feelings..

Simple Enough II


Simple Enough II

I deal with a brother who will do anything for his drugs etc and now that he is married his wife will do anything for drugs also after she/they blow her ssdi check (because she is bipolar & can't work), yeah I'm a little bitter with all that. Choices and habits, that's kinda what it comes down to, especially the ones operating in a fog on their oxy, Vicodin or host of other pain pills the got hooked on.


addiction is so widespread it seems we all know somebody who is hooked.. it's so much worse, of course, when it's family. I feel your anger and your pain.


Sounds to me like she is self-medicating because her bipolar disorder is not being well-treated.

Simple Enough II

Duplicate post

J. Hartman

Just throwing this out there, but take this into consideration. When is a person first introduced to pills? Think about it, think about it, I'm going to say probably about the age of 3 maybe 4 and that's only because a liquid form is given prior. Before most can even speak a complete sentence, we give them pills. As they grow, they are told to take a pill for headaches, a stomach ache, a cold, and it progressively increases in acceptance that pills are good and the idea of taking a pill being bad eventually is completely erased. Then one day they do have a medical reason that pain meds are needed. They enjoy that feeling and because taking a pill has never been an issue or been frowned upon, they initially don't see anything wrong with having one here or there because again they enjoy the feeling and the doctor gave them a 6 month supply when all they needed was enough for 72 hours or some Alieve. It then spins out of control and gradually as the addiction takes hold, money becomes an issue and they seek out cheaper and more dangerous means to get that high. Just saying, from an early age we are taught pills help you, but what we fail to teach is they can also be destructive.


I hate to break it to you, if you are taking the pain medication according to the Dr's instructions you likely aren't getting those feel good euphoric feelings you describe. The most commonly abused prescription painkillers; Percocet and vicodin do not cause euphoria at the accepted dosage. In fact, it appears most people who get hooked on prescription pills have done so through obtaining them illegal and usually aren't popping pills (in this area). They buy them, crush them up, and snort them. Why do they do this? The reason is two-fold. First of all the rush is more intense and comes on quicker when taken this way. Second, both Percocet and vicodin are manufactured with acetaminophen in them to decrease their abuse potential. High dosages of acetaminophen destroys the liver in rather short order. This side affect can be negated by snorting. Out of all the drug addicts I have dealt with in my line of work, at least in this area, I don't come across very many who got hooked on narcotics because a doctor prescribed them. It seems most got them off the street because they were cheap and readily available or stole them from a relative and got hooked. Keep in mind though, this is just through my personal experience and questioning patients, results may not be the same in every area of the country.


Consider this. Most people that are addicted to drugs started using them as kids. It is truly not realistic to expect someone who has been an addict for 10 years + to just suddenly stop. By then it really isn't a choice, it's an illness. We do not have adequate treatment facilities in this area. And we also do not address mental health issues adequately enough, especially in teenagers.
No, I am not saying addicts shouldn't take responsibility. I am saying we need to do a better job with prevention and treatment.