Expert: Low cost, easy availability make heroin attractive

Scott Gehring, CEO and president of Sojourner Services in Hamilton, said the facility is experiencing the effects of heroin. Of the 100 beds offered at the center, 89 percent are taken by heroin addicts. Five years ago, that percentage was 40, and it was 10 percent in 2005, he said.

Prescription drugs are helping addicts recover from heroin, but he called those medications “tools.” The real progress begins when an addict enters counseling, he said.

“We have to teach them how to live again, how to be happy without drugs,” he said.

It typically takes an addict 18 months of being actively clean before they’re sober, he said.

In addition to addicts embracing treatment, the flow of drugs into the United States has to stop and health professionals, educators and public safety officials need to stress the dangers associated with heroin, Gehring said.

In Butler and Warren counties, more than 120 people died from heroin overdoses in 2014, according to the coroner’s offices. In 2010, 16 people in those two counties overdosed from heroin, the offices said. In Ohio, from 2010 to 2014, the number of heroin related deaths jumped from 338 to 1,177.

Heroin is not just “a Butler County problem,” Gehring said.

When asked when heroin will end or at least be reduced, he said drugs typically take five to seven years to run their course, but heroin has reached that timeline, and there is no reduction in overdoses in sight. He said heroin is cheap (less than a pack of cigarettes), readily available and highly addictive.

Because of the low cost and availability of heroin, addicts have an “easy opportunity to address their personal problems,” he said.

It takes three to four hours for someone to overdose from heroin, according to Gehring. He said heroin eventually slows a person’s breathing and heart rate. Paramedics and emergency room staffs now are armed with Narcan, a drug that reverses the effects of heroin and that he called “a drastic intervention.”

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