Mariann Main: Heroin no longer a hidden secret


Ohio voters spoke with a resounding, unified voice during last week’s off-year election. Marijuana will not become a legalized substance in Ohio, at least for now. A casino vote was torpedoed originally by Ohioans, only to succeed a few years later. Who knows if a second ballot attempt will merit a different outcome specific to legalizing “weed.”

Serendipitous timing for the airing of the lead 60 Minutes segment of Sunday, Nov. 1, potentially changed a few votes from supporting the Issue 3 amendment, to deciding otherwise.

Central Ohio took a black eye from this CBS story. “Heroin in the Heartland” was a stunning revelation as to the scope of the epidemic which spotlighted Worthington, Pickerington and the Polaris mall.

Two young women were interviewed about their heroin addictions and the ongoing challenges of remaining “clean.” Hannah Morris was introduced to heroin as a Worthington High School student. Her “casual” marijuana usage at parties escalated to other drugs, and finally an introduction to heroin, which she deemed “a 26 (on a scale of 1-10) and immediately wanting that again.”

Now a college student, Morris reports remaining drug-free for a year. This would seem to be a challenging accomplishment after first starting her heroin usage by smoking it, and then quickly jettisoning to filled syringes in her purse for ready-injection in the high school’s bathrooms.

Jenna Morrison’s attempts to oust heroin from her life have not been as successful. Now at age 25, Morrison recounted 17 rehab attempts, “six 0r seven” arrests, and one overdose, all from heroin.

Her hometown was not identified, except for a “more rural area outside of Columbus.” Morrison blamed her addiction on boredom and partying with the wrong crowd. “I’m in a small town,” she said. :There was nothing to do, and I was hanging out with older people.”

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine was interviewed extensively for the “Heroin in the Heartland” story by CBS reporter Bill Whitaker, and the next morning in the CBS This Morning studio. Per DeWine’s statistics, 23 Ohioans die weekly from heroin usage, a statistic he cites as potentially being under-reported due to the shame of losing a loved one to heroin. He reports heroin usage in all counties of the state and crossing all economic sectors, gender and ages. “Anyone can be a heroin user,” he said.

As a former member of the Delaware-Morrow County Mental Health and Recovery Services Board, I was regularly reminded of the Delaware County “heroin marketplace” occurring in the parking lots of the upscale Polaris mall. According to the 60 Minutes story, the buyers are plentiful and the dealers are readily available — just steps away from high-end retail stores.

Suburban housewives, white-collar executives on their lunch hour and high school students from the affluent surrounding area continue to visit the area to purchase heroin from these awaiting mobile dealers, at specific rendezvous locations.

According to Hannah Morris, leaving home to purchase heroin is now unnecessary, since delivering the drug is as easy as ordering a pizza. She stated that her dealer would place the drug under the front door mat of her parents’ home within 15 minutes of a call, making heroin easier to access than marijuana.

Jenna Morrison’s mother is a registered nurse. Tracy Morrison partially blames the medical profession for prescribing an overabundance of highly addictive painkillers for routine procedures, such as wisdom teeth extraction and minor orthopedic surgeries.

“Now the pendulum has swung too far,” Morrison said. She cites that physicians in the past provided no pain relief for minor surgeries, but now prescribe opiate-based narcotics for temporary post-operative usage. Unfortunately this “temporary” usage can quickly spiral into a nightmare of addiction. Once a prescription for Vicodin or Oxycodone ends, the craving continues for the now-hooked patient, who often progresses to a cheaper “fix” via heroin.

According to DeWine, three-quarters of a billion pain pills are prescribed annually in Ohio. This equates to 65 pills for every man, woman and child residing in the state.

Tyler Campbell was a Pickerington High School football star. He was recruited and played at the University of Akron. After being prescribed Vicodin for shoulder surgery in 2011, his addiction to the drug became so intense that he transitioned to heroin after Vicodin was no longer available. Tyler relapsed immediately after completion of a fourth in-patient hospitalization for heroin addiction.

His parents found him dead in his bedroom. According to the couple, just four months after Tyler’s death, the University of Akron quarterback also died of a heroin overdose.

The Campbells joined other grieving mothers and fathers who were collectively interviewed for the 60 Minutes story. All had lost a child to heroin or have an offspring battling addiction, such as Tracy Morrison. The group consisted of middle-class or higher white parents, which reflects the change of demographics for heroin usage, from previously the back alleys to now suburbia.

If you missed this “in our back yard” CBS segment, please access and watch the story. Every central Ohioan needs to realize the danger and pervasiveness of heroin and the impact of usage for all citizens here in Delaware, Franklin and the other 86 counties.

If an adolescent or any adult requires surgery, request the least potent painkiller for recuperation rather than a prescription for the most potent and addictive.

As for those parents who dismiss this problem “that it could never happen to my child,” think again. If you are giving teenagers spending money without them earning it and no accountability of how the funds are being spent, this is a formula for disaster.

Should your teenager be “bored,” assigning them household chores is a necessity. Require them to get a part-time job in conjunction with attending school and maintaining good grades, which will alleviate “boredom” and the potential for trouble.

Accountability of how adolescents are spending their time, what they are buying, and their academic performance should all merit monitoring by parents. True parenting is hard work which requires confrontation and inevitable arguments between a parent and an adolescent, teenager or young adult offspring.

Enabling parents who do not ask questions of their children, the kids they “hang out with,” or instill consequences for problematic behavior, need to accept partial blame when addiction occurs in their own family.

A “head-in-the-sand” parenting style accomplishes nothing except taking the easy way out from being responsible and involved in a child’s life. Your offspring might not like you at times, but that is part of true parenting.

Speak up. Set a curfew. Mandate boundaries. Be a parent, not their friend. Search their room, if you are suspicious, and potentially save their lives.

Mariann Main

Local Answers to Life’s Questions

Mariann Main is a Delaware native and journalism graduate of The Ohio State University. She has a master’s degree in counseling from Georgia State University, and is licensed as a counselor in both Ohio and Georgia. She can be reached at [email protected].

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