The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

October 26, 2013

Opiate Summit draws hundreds to Spire to fight Ashtabula County’s drug problem

By WARREN DILLAWAY - warren@starbeacon.com
Star Beacon

HARPERSFIELD TOWNSHIP — At a major conference on opiates Friday, more than two-thirds of the people there said they know someone close to them is addicted.

More than 250 people were in attendance at the 2013 Opiate Summit at Spire Institute. This was the third such drug summit.

At a break in the summit, Ashtabula County Common Pleas Judge Alfred Mackey talked about people who are aware of people on these addictive drugs.

The all-day event is designed to fight the county’s drug problem. In attendance were counselors, prosecutors, law enforcement personnel and business leaders.

The event was sponsored by the Ashtabula County Mental Health and Recovery Services Board and the Ashtabula County Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition drawing together people who deal with thia problem.

Miriam Walton, executive director of the Ashtabula County Mental Health and Recovery Board, who helped organize the event said opiate drug addiction is still a major problem in the area.

Since the first Opiate Summit in 2011, there have been some positive changes, including  clearer monitoring of prescription drugs, she said. The Ohio Auto Prescription Report has been helpful in stopping significant prescription drug abuse issues.

“(The) FDA ( U.S. Food and Drug Administration) has made a recommendation that certain pain killers, like hydrocodone, may be moved from a schedule three to a schedule two (which would make them more difficult to get long term prescriptions),” Dr. David Parker, a family physician at Ashtabula County Medical Center, said.

Parker said doctors are trying to be more careful when providing pain killers.

“The path to heroin has been through prescription narcotics,” he said.

Parker and Walton said a lot of people addicted to pain killers start with a legitimate need and then become hooked.

Walton said when prescription drugs are restricted, heroin is often the next step because it is cheap and readily accessible. The need for the next hit becomes a driving force in people’s lives.

“Narcotics withdrawal is maybe the worst thing a human being can go through,” Parker said.

The conference included seminars on the state  of drug addiction in Ashtabula County, how opiates impact business and options for families caught in the throes of addiction.