Located in Summit County, Akron is the fifth-largest city in Ohio. The city, with a population of just under 200,000 people, is located about 30 to 40 miles south of Cleveland and Lake Erie. Although Akron is the birthplace of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), the peer support group based on the 12-step model of recovery, many people in this city struggle with alcohol abuse more than any other substance in the region.
Akron is perhaps best known for being the birthplace of popular NBA stars Stephen Curry and Lebron James. The city is prominently featured in NBA documentaries, music videos, and popular film and TV series. Akron is also the birthplace of the rubber and tire industry, with the city once being recognized as the “Rubber Capital of the World.”
While people associate Akron with many things, year-round residents struggle with substance abuse and addiction. Summit County has earned the unwelcome nickname as the “Meth Capital of Ohio.”
Substance Abuse And Drug Addiction In Akron
A recent report on drug abuse trends in the Akron-Canton region found the most available drugs in the area are crack cocaine, heroin, marijuana, methamphetamine, and Suboxone. The region is also seeing an increase in the use and availability of fentanyl and carfentanil, which are often used to cut other drugs like heroin or cocaine. Like many areas in the U.S., alcohol abuse is also a problem.
Much of the problem with addiction and substance abuse in Akron is attributed to the increased difficulty of obtaining prescription opioids. People suffering from opioid addiction will then turn to heroin, which is much cheaper and more available. However, residents, treatment providers, and law enforcement officials all suggest methamphetamine abuse may surpass heroin abuse in the near future.
Methamphetamine is widely available in both crystal and powdered form. Law enforcement report Mexican cartels are “flooding” crystal meth into the U.S., which finds its way into cities like Akron across the country. In Akron, meth is less stigmatized and many people are switching from heroin to methamphetamine because they’re afraid of dying from a heroin or fentanyl overdose.
Drug Bust In Akron, Ohio
In early 2018, nine people, including five from Akron, were charged with selling 9.65 grams of carfentanil and over 400 grams of fentanyl over the course of almost two years. Two of the charged individuals in the Akron area purchased fentanyl and carfentanil over the internet. The illegal drugs were shipped from China and delivered to locations throughout Akron via the United States Postal Service.
With the spread of carfentanil, an elephant tranquilizer, across the city of Akron, authorities recorded over 230 overdoses and 14 fatalities during a long weekend in July 2016. Powerful substances like fentanyl and carfentanil are becoming more widespread in the Akron-Canton region as the opioid epidemic in Ohio continues to worsen. Increased availability of stronger opioids, like fentanyl and carfentanil, has led to more unintentional overdose deaths.
Alcohol Abuse In Akron
According to several public mental health and addiction treatment providers, alcohol is the number one most-abused substance in Akron. Around 44 percent of all people treated for substance abuse and mental health issues struggle with alcohol problems. For all recorded suicide deaths in Summit County in 2016, over one-third of people had alcohol in their system.
About one in six residents in Akron and Summit County report regular heavy drinking, which is defined as binge drinking more than five times in the past month. Binge drinking refers to having four or more drinks in one sitting for women, and five or more drinks for men. Heavy drinking causes long-term health problems and takes a toll on health and safety. In the Akron area, more than half of all motor-vehicle deaths involve alcohol.
Cocaine Abuse In Akron
According to local people in recovery, all they had to do was enter the inner city and find a drug dealer to buy cocaine. Powdered cocaine is often cut with different additives, which include baby laxatives and baking soda. Other cutting agents used in cocaine include calcium pills, fentanyl, heroin, embalming fluid, methamphetamine, creatine, rat poison and powdered sugar.
Since opioids like fentanyl are sometimes used as cutting agents, some residents report knowing someone who overdosed on cocaine. In Akron, cocaine is routinely used in combination with alcohol, heroin, marijuana and prescription sedatives, worsening the risk of addiction and overdose. Heroin and cocaine are often combined to create a “speedball” effect or experiencing an upper and downer high at the same time.
Crack Cocaine Abuse In Akron
Like powdered cocaine, crack cocaine abuse is prevalent in Akron. Street names for crack cocaine include hard, butter, rock and work. It’s reported crack cocaine abuse is so prevalent people often find crack pipes lying around the city.
Crack cocaine is derived from powdered cocaine through a simple, homemade process which affects the availability and quality of the drug. People in Akron suggest the quality depends on “who cooked it” and when. Crack cocaine is usually smoked, although some people report a younger crowd may inject it. Many people suffering from crack cocaine addiction in Akron are African American and over the age of 40. In general, crack cocaine is less popular in Akron than heroin or crystal meth.
Methamphetamine Abuse In Akron
Crystal meth and powdered meth (“shake-and-bake”) are the most popular forms of methamphetamine in Akron, with law enforcement reporting a rise in the availability of meth. Some officers even suggest it may be more popular than heroin.
Also called “ice,” crystal meth is reportedly flooding the streets of Akron. High-quality crystal meth is reportedly trafficked in from Mexico and Texas, but law enforcement officials report more people are learning how to cook it themselves, adding to meth’s widespread growth and availability. It’s estimated that people who make homemade “shake-and-bake” meth can produce it in less than 30 minutes.
One crime lab reported nearly 600 known meth cases in the first several months of 2017, most coming from Akron and surrounding communities in Summit County. Individuals report the price of crystal meth is going down, and the availability of it is reaching near-epidemic levels. The most common routes of administration for methamphetamine include injecting, snorting and smoking.
Heroin And Fentanyl Abuse In Akron
Some people suggest heroin is easier to find than marijuana, citing its popularity not just in Akron, but in the suburbs and beyond. Crime lab reports suggest the Akron-Canton region had over 470 cases of seized heroin in the last few months of 2016. A similar report found almost 300 cases of fentanyl during the same time period.
There were several cases of child overdoses in Akron reported in local media outlets in early 2017, including the death of a 19-month-old. Police in Akron also found a 2-year-old had overdosed on opioids at his father’s home, and the toddler was revived through the use of Narcan (naloxone), an opioid overdose reversal medication.
Heroin found in Akron is usually a powder, most commonly brown, gray, pinkish or white in color. Some people report the pinkish or grayish colored heroin is likely to be cut with fentanyl, which makes a dose incredibly powerful and dangerous. Much of the heroin sold in the Akron region is reported to really be carfentanil or fentanyl. In Akron, Fentanyl may be referred to as “fetty.” Due to the prevalence of fentanyl and carfentanil in the area, many people struggling with addiction and drug abuse are naming these drugs as their substance of choice over heroin.
Prescription Opioid Abuse In Akron
Percocet (oxycodone) and Vicodin (hydrocodone) are more available to buy on the streets of Akron than Oxycontin (oxycodone) and other prescription opioids, individuals report. A crime lab report from the region suggests there were over 200 cases involving prescription opioids in the first six months of 2017, indicating the common instances of illicit prescription opioid abuse in the Akron region.
Other prescription opioids available on the street include codeine, Dilaudid (hydromorphone), Roxicodone (oxycodone), methadone, morphine, Opana (oxymorphone) and tramadol. The troubling thing about purchasing prescription drugs off the street is not really knowing what it is. One lab report cited fake OxyContin pills that were actually heroin. Prescription opioids are also accessed through family members and friends, emergency rooms, dentists, older people and various healthcare providers in the Akron-Canton region, individuals report.
Suboxone Abuse In Akron
Suboxone is the brand name for an opioid medication called buprenorphine. In Akron, Suboxone is illegally bought, sold and traded on the street. The sublingual filmstrip, or “strip,” is the most common form of the drug. Many people report that those with prescriptions for Suboxone will trade or sell it for other drugs like heroin.
Within the early months of 2017, there were over 50 cases involving buprenorphine as reported by a local crime lab. Besides finding Suboxone on the streets, people in recovery claim to get it through maintenance clinics, doctors, and the internet. In the Akron area, those abusing Suboxone are likely addicted to heroin or other opioids and may be struggling with relapse in recovery.
Benzodiazepine Abuse In Akron
Prescription sedative-hypnotics, which include benzodiazepines, barbiturates, and muscle relaxers, are reported to be easier to buy on the street than prescription opioids. In the Akron area, the most popular sedatives for illicit purchase include benzodiazepines Klonopin (clonazepam), Valium (diazepam) and Xanax (alprazolam). Crime lab reports found almost 200 cases involved benzodiazepines in the early months of 2017, most of which were alprazolam.
The availability of benzodiazepines on the street is troubling because the pills can be laced with stronger drugs like fentanyl and heroin. Individuals and law enforcement report that dealers in Akron will “re-press” Xanax pills with stronger substances. Based on crime lab reports, the availability of several benzodiazepines, like Ativan and Xanax, are on the rise for street purchase. Benzodiazepines are taken orally and commonly mixed with other drugs like alcohol or marijuana.
Marijuana In Akron
Like many places in Ohio, marijuana is widely available in Akron. The more marijuana becomes socially acceptable and legalized, the more available it will be the Akron area. Treatment providers and law enforcement claim a lot of the marijuana comes from legalized states and crosses the border into Ohio.
In Akron, addiction treatment providers report people may begin using marijuana as early as nine to 10 years old. This greatly increases the risk of developing a substance use disorder later in life. Marijuana is usually smoked but is also orally ingested in edible forms. Crime lab reports that concentrated THC oils or extracts (“dabs”) are on the rise.
Other Drugs Of Abuse In Akron
- Prescription stimulants: Prescription stimulants, such as amphetamines, are available for street purchase in Akron and the surrounding area. The most commonly abused prescription stimulants include Adderall, Ritalin, and Vyvanse.
- Ecstasy: Also called Molly or MDMA, ecstasy is a powerful stimulant that may be as available as methamphetamine, some individuals struggling with drug abuse report. However, law enforcement and addiction treatment providers suggest ecstasy is less available in Akron than it once was. Ecstasy and molly tablets or capsules are routinely cut with other harmful substances that include cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine.
- Hallucinogens: LSD and psilocybin mushrooms are the most available hallucinogens in the region. Lab reports suggest the number of people abusing hallucinogens is increasing, although many people using these drugs do not consider them to be addictive.
Overdose Deaths In Akron
Between 2011 and 2015, overdose deaths in Akron and Summit County have more than doubled. Back in 2011, just under 10 per 100,000 people died of a drug overdose. By 2015, the rate was over 24 deaths per 100,000 people (an increase of over 150 percent). In 2015, the single greatest cause of accidental death was an unintentional drug overdose, with a reported 131 deaths in Summit County that year alone.
Summit County suffered 310 unintentional drug overdose deaths in 2016. Early data for the 2017 year suggests over 150 people in the county died from drug-related overdose between January and October, according to Summit County Public Health (SCPH).
Several areas in Akron, including the southeast and northern clusters, have been hard-hit by overdose fatalities. Part of the increase in drug-related deaths has to do with the availability of fentanyl and carfentanil. These drugs are typically used as cutting agents for heroin, cocaine and other illicit substances. They are powerfully addictive and so potent only a small amount is capable of killing a person.
What Is A Substance Use Disorder?
Individual reports suggest many people in Akron may suffer from a substance use disorder, which is the medical diagnosis for an addiction or substance abuse. Untreated substance use disorders can lead to:
- financial problems
- legal problems
- health issues
- lower quality of life
- overdose and death
- relationship problems
Substance use disorders are characterized by compulsive substance use, intense cravings, an inability to control use and continuing to use substances despite harmful consequences. Although substance use disorders can damage lives, addiction is a treatable disease. A person doesn’t have to hit rock bottom to seek treatment, and the earlier a person enters treatment, the better chances they have for long-lasting recovery.
The Bluffs Rehab: Treatment For Addiction And Substance Abuse
The Bluffs is an addiction treatment center located in Sherrodsville, about an hour’s drive south of Akron. The Bluffs facility is situated on 80 scenic acres of rolling hills in what was once the grounds of a sprawling resort. Accommodations are comfortable and extra amenities include an indoor and outdoor swimming pool, a volleyball court and hiking trails.
The Bluffs treatment is tailored to the needs of each individual. Staffed with a variety of healthcare professionals, including psychiatrists and nurses, The Bluffs specializes in treating co-occurring disorders, or individuals who suffer from both a mental health and substance use disorder.
To ensure each person is given the best chance for recovery, The Bluffs provides a variety of evidence-based treatment methods that include:
- a balanced life in recovery curriculum
- adventure therapy
- alumni program
- drug and alcohol detoxification
- cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
- dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)
- family support program
- medication-assisted treatment (MAT)
Length of stays range between 28 and 34 days and are based on individual needs. A low-cost aftercare program is offered for additional support in recovery. Because of the beautiful setting, treatment options and a qualified team of professionals, The Bluffs is an ideal place for the people of Ohio to overcome addiction and make real changes in their lives.
Akron Beacon Journal — From China to Akron
Ohio Substance Abuse Monitoring Network — Drug Abuse Trends in the Akron-Canton Region
Summit County Public Health — Population Health Vital Statistics Brief, Summit County Community Health Assessment