An opioid epidemic has been sweeping the United States for the last few years. Of all 50 states, Ohio has the second highest rate of overdose deaths related to opioid drugs. Cleveland, the second largest city in Ohio, is certainly no stranger to opioid abuse.
Forty-seven percent of drug overdoses in Cuyahoga County in 2016 were related to opioids, raising alarm in the Cleveland community. But the other 53 percent were also concerning. Drugs like cocaine and methamphetamine continue to be trafficked and abused in Cleveland, causing many people to become addicted and increasing overdose rates.
The opioid crisis has sent many people into a panic. A high rate of drug addiction affects society as a whole. Healthcare costs, lost productivity, disease transmission, and drug-related crimes have an impact even on people who do not use drugs.
Fortunately, addiction is a treatable disease. A quality drug and alcohol rehab program can turn someone’s life around and lead them to a better future.
How Is Cleveland Affected By Drug Addiction?
Over 660 people in Cuyahoga County died from a drug overdose in 2016, and 380 died in the first six months of 2017. While overdose can occur to someone the first time they use drugs, the chances of overdose become greater with prolonged use.
When someone is addicted to a drug, they take it repeatedly, often before the last dose has left their system. This causes a build-up which can make it hard to regulate how much of a dose is safe and how much could be fatal. Taking a drug more frequently raises overdose risk simply because there are more opportunities for overdose to occur.
Injection drug use, a common method of intake for opioid drugs, is linked to the spread of bloodborne diseases like human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and Hepatitis C. While the rate of HIV cases is relatively low in Ohio, a higher prevalence of injection drug use could change that.
Drug Trafficking In Cleveland
Several drug busts were reported in Cleveland in late 2017 and early 2018 involving cocaine, heroin, marijuana, and prescription opioids like oxycodone (OxyContin, Percocet). These drugs come into Cleveland from around the country, notably Mexican drug cartel hubs like Chicago and Atlanta.
Drug trafficking allows a wide availability of illicit substances in Cleveland, making it easier for people to become addicted. Dangerous substances found laced in some drugs has contributed to a drastic increase in overdose deaths in recent years.
Which Drugs Are The Worst In Cleveland?
The Ohio Substance Abuse Monitoring (OSAM) Network gathered drug availability information from individuals in drug and alcohol recovery programs. These people reported that heroin, cocaine, and crystal methamphetamine were widely available in Cleveland.
However, the worst drugs may not be the most prevalent, but rather the most potent. Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid drug that is 100 times stronger than morphine, is largely responsible for the rise in overdose rates in Cleveland.
Fentanyl is sometimes laced into heroin or cocaine to increase supply, make more potent drugs, or produce a different high. Buyers do not always know that the drugs are laced, which poses the risk of accidental overdose.
Only two milligrams of fentanyl can kill a human. Even if someone knows there is fentanyl in their heroin or cocaine, they cannot measure how much is present and take the chance of overdosing every time they ingest it. Fentanyl is so potent that can affect someone on skin contact. First responders and law enforcement agents are advised not to test it outside of a lab.
Carfentanil has also been found in Cleveland. This fentanyl derivative is 10,000 times stronger than morphine and not intended for human use. The Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner’s Office reported that 62.1 percent of drug overdose deaths in the first half of 2017 involved fentanyl or its analogs (such as carfentanil).
Opioid Abuse In Cleveland
Opioid overdose killed more people in 2016 than homicides, suicides, and traffic fatalities combined. The availability of white powdered heroin continued to increase the following year, possibly because supply was stretched with fentanyl.
But fentanyl is not the only opioid problem in Cleveland. Prescription opioid painkillers are responsible for the rise in overdose deaths as well. The most commonly abused prescription opioids in Cleveland include:
- Percocet (oxycodone)
- Vicodin (hydrocodone)
- Opana (oxymorphone)
- Ultram (tramadol)
Prescription drug monitoring and restrictions have decreased the availability of prescription opioids in Cleveland. This may help some people avoid developing an addiction as less availability means less opportunity for abuse.
Unfortunately, lack of access to prescription opioids has caused many people in Cleveland to turn to heroin as an alternative, which could be another reason that heroin is becoming more prevalent.
Methamphetamine Abuse In Cleveland
Methamphetamine can be found on the streets in Cleveland as a powder and in crystal form. Crystal meth is much more common and is easy to obtain. Methamphetamine is involved in a relatively small amount of overdose deaths — less than two percent in the first half of 2017.
During that time, crystal meth became more prevalent, possibly attributed to movement by Mexican drug cartels. Methamphetamine is highly addictive and can have severe negative physical and mental effects with prolonged use. Most people in Cleveland use methamphetamine by smoking it, a route of administration that poses additional health risks.
Cocaine Abuse In Cleveland
Like heroin and methamphetamine, cocaine is widely available in Cleveland. Crack cocaine is more popular than powdered cocaine, but both can be found. Participants in the OSAM study claimed that in some Cleveland neighborhoods, drug dealers approach people with samples and offers to sell a wide range of drugs, including powdered cocaine.
Powdered cocaine is often laced with other unknown substances, like fentanyl. The powdered version is preferred by wealthy people in Cleveland while crack cocaine is prevalent in poorer neighborhoods. In early 2017, so many people in the Cleveland area were making crack cocaine that competition drove the prices down.
Other Commonly Abused Drugs In Cleveland
Many people in Cleveland misuse Sedative-hypnotic drugs like benzodiazepines, barbiturates, and muscle relaxants. Xanax (alprazolam) and Klonopin (clonazepam) are at the top of the list of anti-anxiety medications that are easily prescribed and frequently abused.
Prescription stimulants such as Adderall (amphetamine) and Ritalin (methylphenidate) are often found among college students in the Cleveland area. Some people use these drugs to boost their focus and perform well on projects while others use them to experience a high similar to that of methamphetamine or cocaine.
The powdered form of ecstasy (MDMA or molly) is fairly common in the Cleveland club scene. Hallucinogens like lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD or acid), phencyclidine (PCP), and psilocybin mushrooms are also abused as recreational or “club drugs.”
Marijuana has been legalized for medical use in Ohio but is otherwise illegal. The OSAM notes that illicit marijuana use and possession is prevalent in Cuyahoga County and that individuals are starting to use marijuana at an increasingly younger age.
Cleveland Injection Drug Use And HIV
Many cases of HIV are caused by sharing needles for injection drug use. Substance abuse can also contribute to risky behaviors like unsafe sex that increase the chance of disease transmission. While the amount of people with HIV in Cleveland is a small percentage of the population, each new person who contracts the disease can spread it to others.
The Cleveland Department of Public Health and the Ohio Department of Health have some initiatives to prevent the spread of HIV among the at-risk population:
- Syringe Exchange Program (SEP): This program offers clean needles for injection drug use with the goal of preventing disease transmission through shared drug paraphernalia. It also educates people on bloodborne diseases and tests for HIV.
- Project DAWN (deaths avoided with naloxone): This project distributes naloxone, a drug used to reverse opioid overdose. It also educates and trains people on how to administer naloxone nasal spray to someone who has overdosed.
- PrEP (Pre-exposure Prophylaxis): This is a medication that at-risk individuals can take once daily to prevent contraction of HIV.
These programs have been effective at preventing the symptoms of substance use disorders and may encourage individuals to consider addiction treatment. Disease prevention is an important public health concern, but the root of the problem is substance abuse and addiction. At The Bluffs, we aim to address the deeper issues of substance use disorders to help individuals find freedom from addiction.
What Are The Signs Of Substance Abuse?
Prolonged substance abuse leads to poor health and a weakened immune system. While every substance has unique effects, some of them share common symptoms. Stimulants often cause increased energy, appetite suppression, insomnia, and skin-picking. Depressants may cause drowsiness, confusion, difficulty breathing, itchy skin, and anxiety.
How a person takes a drug may also reveal signs of substance abuse. Snorting drugs (insufflation) can cause nosebleeds and erosion of nasal tissue. Injecting drugs leads to track marks (scars around veins) and can cause bacterial skin infections. Smoking drugs can cause a chronic cough, worsened asthma or black phlegm (crack cocaine).
What Are The Signs Of Addiction?
A person who is addicted to drugs or alcohol will continue to use these substances even if there are noticeable negative effects. This could include poor health, unhealthy relationships, and impaired performance at work or school.
Someone who is addicted to prescription drugs such as opioids or benzodiazepines may visit several doctors to obtain multiple prescriptions. This allows them to take higher doses, use the drug longer than recommended, or both.
Other signs that someone is struggling with addiction may include:
- self-medication — relying on drugs or alcohol to deal with stress
- financial strain from spending excessive money on drugs or alcohol
- risky behavior in order to obtain drugs or while under the influence
- cravings or withdrawal symptoms when not using substances
- lack of ability to stop substance abuse, even if they want to
Addiction is a mental disease that changes brain structure and shifts a person’s priorities. Obtaining and consuming drugs or alcohol becomes the most important thing, often at the expense of everything else. This disease is very difficult to overcome alone.
Dangers Of Substance Use Disorders
Long-term substance abuse can have many negative effects on a person’s health and quality of life. Misusing substances can lead to problems like heart failure, liver disease, rapid aging, paranoia, hallucinations, and psychosis. Abusing drugs and alcohol is always accompanied by overdose risk, especially if these substances are obtained from a disreputable source. The most effective way to avoid harm from substance use is prevention.
Addiction Treatment At The Bluffs
At The Bluffs — less than two hours from Cleveland — we create unique treatment plans for each individual. This allows the most relevant and holistic treatment for addiction, whether a person is struggling with alcohol, drugs, or polysubstance abuse.
Our inpatient treatment facility allows people in treatment to take a break from the stress of everyday life and focus on recovery. The length of treatment depends on the individual. Our goal is to ensure that each person receives adequate treatment so they can completely heal from addiction.
Because addiction is a complicated disorder, there is no single cure. A variety of treatment methods are integrated together to deal with the many issues surrounding substance abuse.
Foundational treatments for substance use disorders include the following:
- Individual counseling allows one-on-one examination of problems stemming from and contributing to substance use.
- Group therapy facilitates a discussion among those struggling with substance abuse and a therapist to share common experiences and work toward a collective goal.
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) pinpoints negative thought patterns and works to alter them and produce more positive behaviors.
- Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) focuses on mindfulness, stress management, and emotional regulation.
- Motivational Interviewing prompts an individual to discover the desire to change and compels them to do the work required to fully recover.
These core treatment methods are combined with recreation, artistic expression, and adventure therapy to support physical health, emotional expression, and positive thrill-seeking. Addressing the health of the whole person is essential in preventing relapse. At The Bluffs, we aim to transform an empty existence into a meaningful life.
For more information on our individualized addiction treatment programs, contact one of our specialists today.
Cuyahoga County Board of Health — Cuyahoga County Opiate Task Force Report 2016
Ohio Substance Abuse Monitoring Network — Drug Abuse Trends in the Cleveland Region
The Washington Post — See how deadly street opioids like “elephant tranquilizer” have become