Opioid epidemic discussion comes to Cleveland State

by Briana Oldham

The Cleveland-Marshall College of Law presented a program on Tuesday, Feb. 13 detailing the opioid crisis, its causes and effects, and how we can attempt to remedy the situation. Since 2009, the United States has seen a spike in opioid related deaths.

There were five panelists who spoke on how we got here and where we can go. First up was Lauren C. Moore of The Greater Cleveland Drug Court, a program designed to help rehabilitate drug offenders in the Cuyahoga County area.

Moore explains that once individuals are in the program, the main focus is getting back on track and remaining healthy. There are sacrifices that come along with being part of such rehabilitation.

“They have one job, to gain or regain their sobriety. That’s it, that’s their only job. Some people try to work and do drug court,” Moore said. “If you can do that fine, but if work gets in the way, you may have to stop work.”

Fellow panelist Kristen Schenker  followed the statement, explaining how long it takes to be considered sober.

“The timeframe it takes for rehabilitation is an interesting one. Technically, you are considered braindead until nine months sober,” panelist Kristen Schenker said.

The 666 opioid related deaths in 2016 and over 780 in 2017 have made programs like this a necessity.

Drug courts prove to be a different kind of effort when compared to treatment facilities because they allow for real world conditions and take into account everyday life obstacles.

Dr. Crawford Barnette provided a thorough history of the various types of opioids and how and where they were introduced. It wasn’t until the mid-1800’s that the syringe was born and created a new way for the drugs to be administered.

“Alexander Wood of Scotland perfected the hypodermic syringe which created the ability to deliver morphine intravenously,” Barnette said. “It was used for pain, sedation, as well as euphoric affects.”

Around the 1900’s, Heinrich Dresser from Germany began testing heroin on animals and humans, including himself, while working for the Bayer Company. At the time, it was also marketed as a safe cough reliever.

Opioids were banned in the United States in 1924.

Panelists debated recovery times while others spoke of how difficult it was to trace opioid addiction back to prescription medicine.

Dr. Richard Kasmer, the dean and vice President of the College of Pharmacy, spoke with the goal to examine the statistics from a more local level. He provided a visual depiction of the state of Ohio and what the numbers looked like in our own back yard.

The biggest issue Ohio sees is what is widely known as “pill mills” according to Kasmer.

These are areas where pills are purchased and distributed in higher amounts than anywhere else in the region. The death toll in the higher concentrated areas is on par with the red region pill mills.

“If you look at the prescription doses per capita in Ohio,” Kasmer said. you’d see that a lot of the mills or a higher percentage of users are in central and southeastern Ohio.”