75 percent of heroin overdoses begin with prescription drugs

By William K. Alcorn



There is tremendous energy in Mahoning County to fight the growing opioid epidemic is the thought that Mahoning County Common Pleas Judge Jack Durkin said he will take with him as Ohio’s representative to an eight-state regional symposium on opioid addiction in August.

But, said Judge Durkin at Thursday’s meeting hosted by Pharmacist Raymond Carlson, owner of RC Compounding in Poland and of RC Outsourcing, in Lowellville, it will take a grass-roots effort.

“The answer is, the community and parents have to get involved,” said Judge Durkin.

“I think there is hope. Recovery from addiction is possible. I see the results,” said Judge Durkin, who has operated a successful Mahoning County Drug Court.

Last night’s community meeting, which Carlson hosts from 7 to 8 p.m. the last Thursday of each month to discuss various issues, was aimed at gathering opinions and insights to help Judge Durkin with ideas at the opioid addiction symposium.

Carlson said pharmacists and members of the public have important roles in curbing the use of prescription drugs, through which 75 percent of heroin overdoses begin.

Carlson urged people to slow down a little and take time to ask for counseling or information about the drugs they are taking; for instance, how they interact with other drugs or supplements they are taking; and what side effects they might have.

“When people sign for their drugs they are signing away their right to counsel,” Carlson said.

An attorney in the audience said when a prescription recipient signs or otherwise declines counsel they are letting the pharmaceutical companies off the hook.

The other primary speaker at the meeting was Deputy Mahoning County Coroner Dr. Joseph Ohr, who sees the end results of heroin overdoses when he autopsies the bodies.

“Where do you even begin with a problem like this? As a medical examiner in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s, I took bullets out of corpses. Now, it’s drugs doing the killing as people go to the streets to get heroin that some diabolical people are mixing with deadly Fentanyl,” he began.

“The game is a lot more lethal now. We still have to treat cancer with pain killers, but we need tight control and need to get control of the street stuff because no one knows what they are getting,” Dr. Ohr said.

“We all, everyone of us in families and neighborhoods and businesses, we have a lot of power. We need to make it our business to talk to people. We’ve been kind of quiet. We have to defend police officers, not the thugs. We need to have conversations like this with each other and our kids. You’ve earned the right to speak out by living on this earth,” he said.

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