Thursday 22nd February 2018,
The Transcript

An insider’s look at central Ohio’s heroin problem


Danielle Adkins, a recovering heroin addict and Delaware native, is approaching her second year sober.

“When an oxycodone cost $80 and 30 milligrams of Percocet is $30 you can’t afford to sustain that habit for long. I told my dealer I couldn’t keep spending $120 a day, so he suggested I try his pure white heroin. Like that, I was hooked,” said 35-year-old Delaware native and recovering addict, Danielle Adkins.

Heroin originally became popular in the 1960s, but after four decades, it is now back funneling through U.S. streets at a high rate. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, from 2007 to 2012 the number of Americans using heroin increased from 373,000 to 669,000.

Steve Hedge, executive-director of Delaware Morrow Mental Health and Recovery Services, said heroin is their No.1 problem.

“Heroin and opioids are some of the most addictive drugs you can take. You’ll hear former abusers say I got hooked the first time I injected it,” he said.

The narcotic analgesic directly depresses the central nervous system causing an intense high. Heroin can be naturally derived from the opium poppy or formulated synthetically in a lab.

Adkins said she had to learn how to hide her addiction from her husband, child and friends.

“While I was slamming (injecting through the veins), I shot up in my lower extremities, in between my toes, and in the veins on my breasts,” she said. “I always made sure the lights were off when I made love to my husband so he would not know my secret.”

The country-wide epidemic has severely affected. Ohio In 2011, there were 1,765 unintentional drug overdoses, according to the Ohio Department of Health. That means nearly five Ohioans died every day from unintentional drug overdose that year.

Judge David Sunderman of the Delaware County Municipal Court said heroin addicts are not worried about overdosing.

“I had a guy in court recently that was on probation, and he was a heroin user. His best friend and girlfriend had both died from an overdose. I mentioned to the court that he had tested dirty even after that occurred,” said Sunderman. “I said, ‘A logical person would conclude that once you see someone close to you die, you’re just not going to use again.’ He responded, ‘Judge to be honest, there’s no logic involved in this. I know that is how I should think, but when you’re a heroin addict you don’t care about that. There are times I’d be happy dead anyways.”

Adkins, a former registered nurse at Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center, said the addiction is extremely strong.

“I would go to work high, inject myself while I was at work, and then get high when I got home. I still feel very guilty for taking an oath as a nurse to care for the sick, not to hurt them,” she said.

According to the Ohio Department of Health, from 1997 to 2011 the amount of unintentional drug overdose death rates and distribution rates of prescription opioids showed a strong relationship as both are currently at all-time highs.

Prescription opioid pills such as OxyContin and Percocet are the gateways to heroin. These prescription pills can be obtained from a pharmacy with a valid prescription or from “pill mills” where patient’s leftover prescription medication is distributed illegally.

Delaware Police Chief Bruce Pijanowski said the source of addiction is doctors over-prescribing opiate pain medication to some of their patients.

“My daughter just had very minor knee surgery, and she got a 30-day supply of Percocet when she only needed a one-day supply. Part of the problem is the left-over pain pills are just sitting there and they get diverted,” he said.

Dr. Andy Lee of the Smith Clinic said heroin addicts are solely worried about where the cheapest fix is coming from.

“As the supply of prescription opiates has dried up, they’ve become more and more expensive and more difficult to get. Simple economics dictates that I’m going to buy whatever is cheapest,” he said.

Addicts often resort to burglaries, shoplifting and home invasions, selling or pawning their stolen goods for their next cheap fix. Judge Sunderman said desperate addicts will do anything for a balloon of heroin.

“Since we are the municipal court, we see a tremendous amount of shoplifting cases,” he said. “Big shopping areas such as Polaris, all the stores down on Route 23 and stores in town are unfortunately convenient places for people to go get items. Their plan is they steal merchandise worth $300, to go get enough money out if it for their next fix.”

After months of being consistently using heroin, Adkins had a scare and decided to finally admit her addiction to her husband. He immediately took her to inpatient rehabilitation where she endured withdrawal.

Adkins then was admitted to outpatient rehabilitation at Maryhaven, a rehabilitation and addiction recovery care center in Delaware. Adkins has been clean for almost two years, and she said the road to recovery is rewarding.

“When I was high, my body was there, but I wasn’t,” she said. “Maryhaven saved my life, and I am now a more attentive mother to my child and better wife to my husband.”

Adkins said she is now pursuing her bachelor’s degree online to become a social worker to help other addicts and get her story out. Adkins explained she has learned one major lesson through her journey.

“I had a great family, nice house and a good paying job, but I still became addicted,” she said. “If it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone.”

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