COLUMBUS (WCMH) – The heroin epidemic has affected families across central Ohio, with dozens of overdoses in just the last few days. Stopping the epidemic was the focus of a community conversation held Thursday evening at Franklin Heights High School.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said he thinks changing the culture surrounding addiction and opiates is key to stopping the epidemic.
“When I was a county prosecutor, heroin was something that even people who were doing drugs did not do,” DeWine said. “It was a small number of people, usually confined to the city. Horrible for them, but it didn’t reach out into the suburbs or into the rural areas. And the reason it didn’t, there just was a psychological barrier; people just wouldn’t do heroin. They knew that that was just something they didn’t want to touch. Today, we’ve lost that. We’ve lost that inhibition, we’ve lost that wall, and so we have to kind of change the culture.”
DeWine said he thinks talking about the problem is important, so people can understand the dangers of heroin and how it affects people’s brains. He also thinks education is an important component of prevention.
“I think we need to start in kindergarten, do something every single year all the way through 12th grade,” DeWine said. “Something that is age-appropriate—we’re going to be careful what we say to kids in kindergarten and first grade. But it also has to be something that has been scientifically vetted and tested to show that it actually does, in fact, work.”
Randy Simpson, a recovering heroin addict, spoke at the podium Thursday. He told NBC4 his parents divorced when he was eight years old because of his father’s drug and alcohol problems, and he soon started using himself.
“That just took over my life completely. (I) overdosed two times,” Simpson said. “It was a crazy roller coaster ride.”
Simpson said he found a faith-based Christian recovery program and has been sober for 10½ months.
“Just having a purpose really is the main thing. I used to be very selfish,” Simpson said. “I want to help people and do anything to help people get away from the addiction that I was once in that I see them in now.”
DeWine said changing the culture surrounding tobacco use and cigarettes worked to slow that epidemic, and he wants to see that happen with opiates too.
“Do some people still start? Yes, they do, but a lot less than before,” DeWine said of tobacco users. “That’s taken a long time, and we’ve changed that culture. It’s really not a cool thing to do. But heroin, we got to change that culture because heroin just doesn’t have that, people aren’t worried about it anymore.”