drug addiction

Naloxone is an antidote that can help reverse drug overdoses.
John Minchillo / Associated Press

The isolation and stress brought on by COVID-19 have been particularly difficult for people fighting drug addiction. When Ohio shut down in March, nonprofits that offer services to people with substance use issues had to change the way they operate to keep the virus at bay.

Paige Pfleger / WOSU

Christopher has been struggling with addiction since he was 14. He uses heroin, and he says things have been hard since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Vinton County, Ohio, has been on the front lines of the opioid crisis in the U.S. for several years. The drugs may have changed over the years — from opioids to meth — but the devastating effects on families have not. And even though the county hasn't had high infection rates of the coronavirus, the necessary social restrictions have made it harder to keep people addicted to drugs and their children safe.

Dayton and Columbus are both reporting spikes in overdose deaths. Some experts say it's at least in part because of pandemic-related stress. Ann Stevens with Montgomery County Alcohol Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services says there's been a 58% increase in fatal OD's compared to a year ago.

Before the spreading coronavirus became a pandemic, Emma went to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting every week in the Boston area and to another support group at her methadone clinic. She says she felt safe, secure and never judged.

"No one is thinking, 'Oh my God, she did that?' " says Emma, "'cause they've been there."

Last year, unintentional overdose deaths decreased 11% in Hamilton County. Now public officials are working together to tackle a more long-term issue: addiction.

Updated 11:41 a.m. ET Thursday

After a two-year battle, the Philadelphia nonprofit Safehouse says next week it will open the first space in the U.S. where people struggling with addiction can use opioids and other illegal drugs under the supervision of trained staff.

The RREACT cars are part of a program to provide overdose victims with treatment.
Columbus City Council

Columbus City Council on Monday night approved $371,523 in federal money to help fund a second Rapid Response Emergency Addiction Crisis Team in Franklin County. 

Paige Pfleger / WOSU

Tammy’s struggle with substance use started with pain pills she found in her grandmother’s cabinet. Then it escalated to heroin.

Michele Rout is an assistant law director in the city of Chillicothe, one of the places in Ohio hardest hit by the opioid epidemic.

But her experience with the human toll of the crisis goes beyond the courtroom.

Rout and her husband are raising two grandchildren who were exposed to opioids before birth and experienced symptoms of withdrawal afterward — a condition known as neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS).

Columbus Public Health on Parsons Avenue.
Paige Pfleger / WOSU

Two people die each day from overdoses in Franklin County. Columbus Public Health on Tuesday released an updated strategic plan to tackle the addiction problem.

Americans know the dangers of drugs such as morphine and heroin. But what about a supplement that acts in the brain a bit like an opiate and is available in many places to kids — even from vending machines.

Kratom, an herb that's abundant, legal in most states and potentially dangerous, is the subject of an ongoing debate over its risks and benefits.

In this April 16, 2018 file photo, Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, speaks during a news conference at a Kroger supermarket as the company announces new associate benefits attributed to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, in Cincinnati.
John Minchillo / Associated Press

Starting next year, states will have the ability to use money dedicated to the opioid crisis for combatting other forms of drug use. 

When Matthew Braun gets out of medical school, he'll be able to prescribe opioids.

A decade ago, he was addicted to them.

"The first time I ever used an opioid, I felt the most confident and powerful I'd ever felt," Braun says. "So I said, 'This is it. I want to do this the rest of my life.' "

Opioids took away his anxiety, his inhibitions, his depression. And they were easy to get.

"I just started breaking into houses," Braun says. "I found it amazing how trusting people were in leaving windows open and doors unlocked, and I found a lot of prescriptions."

Erica Watkins is now a regular at TITLE Boxing Club in Indianapolis.
Carter Barrett / Side Effects Public Media

It’s a Friday evening and a dozen or so people – men, women, teenagers, little kids – are gathered at TITLE Boxing Club. It’s an upscale boxing studio near a largely vacant shopping mall on Indianapolis' north side.

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