The latest state report on substance abuse released on Friday shows that crack cocaine, bath salts, heroin, marijuana, prescription opioids, sedative-hypnotics and a drug used to treat heroin addiction all remain “highly available in the Athens region.”
Although the report is titled, “Drug Abuse Trends in the Athens Region,” the area covered includes a 16-county-wide swath of central-eastern and southeastern Ohio, extending up to Coshocton and Harrison counties, over to Hocking, Vinton and Perry counties and running along the Ohio River between Gallia and Belmont counties.
The report was compiled made after extensive interviews with law-enforcement personnel, other community professionals and drug-user participants themselves.
The report revealed an increase in availability for heroin and Suboxone, as well as some prescription opioids and some sedative-hypnotics. Bath salts, on the other hand, are reportedly decreasing in availability, thanks in part to a state law making the substance illegal.
“While many types of heroin are currently available in the region, participants continued to report black tar heroin as (most available),” the report said. “Participants and community professionals were in agreement in that the availability of heroin has increased during the past six months.”
As reasons for this, the report cited increased selling and increased demand as opioid-addicted individuals realize that heroin is cheaper and easier to obtain. Users also said that heroin produces a “better high,” according to the report. It reports that users continue to prefer intravenous injection.
“Community professionals described typical heroin users as young, 18-30 years of age,” the report said.
With regard to prescription opioids, Opana has been on the increase while Oxycontin (and related drugs) availability has decreased. This is attributed to the fact that Opana can be crushed and snorted or intravenously injected, which is no longer the case with Oxycontin.
“Participants continued to report obtaining prescription opioids on the street from dealers, and from doctors, emergency rooms and people with prescriptions,” it said. “However, participants noted a decrease in obtaining prescription opioids through emergency rooms due to heightened scrutiny from hospital staff regarding drug seeking.”
Over-the-counter medications are readily available and most often abused by high-school youth between the ages of 16 and 18, the report noted.
“One participant said, ‘They eat a whole box of Sudafed or drink a whole bottle of Robitussin (and call it) Robotrippin,’” according to the report. “’Yeah, triple C’s (Coricidin Cold and Cough). That’s big around here. It’s mostly among the teens; I know a lot of high-schoolers that like the cough and cold medicines.’”
The report noted that with regard to powdered cocaine, participants mostly reported the drug’s availability as a 10 on a scale of 0 to 10, but only in Athens County did participants report low availability of the drug.
Marijuana was reported in very high availability. One treatment provider quoted in the report spoke of the ease with which juveniles obtain marijuana.
“I know some of my clients who are seniors in high school; they can get (marijuana) at the high school whenever they want with no problem at all,” the treatment professional said.
Meanwhile, a law-enforcement professional also acknowledged the drug’s high availability.
“It’s been accepted now,” the person said. “Everyone wants to say they ought to license it and tax it. One of the tough things for (law enforcement) is that marijuana, in order to get a stiff penalty, they have to buy a large quantity of it. Most are just minor misdemeanors, like speeding.”
Meigs County Gold, a marijuana variety grown in the county to the south of Athens, is described in the report as being of high quality. It’s so easily available that a probation office reportedly found it growing on one family’s front porch, the report said.
Meanwhile, Suboxone, which is used to treat opioid addiction, is on the rise. According to participants, heroin users use Suboxone in between using other opioids, “to avoid being dope sick, till they get money for their next heroin.”
Suboxone is reported as highly available and is becoming a problem in known drug areas, especially apartment complexes and the like where it can be obtained from people with prescriptions.
Heroin continues to be a major drug of abuse, reported as highly available and still on the rise. A Jackson County participant claimed heroin was more available than marijuana. Heroin is reported as coming from outside the region, including Columbus, Dayton and New Philadelphia, Ohio, and some from Washington County, Ohio (Marietta area).
“(Heroin) balloons (are) more likely the tar from Columbus and stamp bags from Marietta,” one participant said.
Participants also reported that often heroin dealers do not use the drug themselves.
“I know a lot of dealers that don’t use it,” one participant reported. “I’ve had close friends that you just can’t talk out of (buying heroin to sell to others). When their kids are hungry and they get $100, they’ve just made rent. You hit the desperation point.”
Community professionals described the typical heroin user as 18 to 30 and “not going to college… not actively pursuing higher education… We’re not hearing (about heroin use) at the colleges… definitely younger individuals who aren’t in school (use heroin)… those not working to improve their socio-economic status.”
A law-enforcement professional said that college kids are using powdered cocaine.
“Upper-class and college kids (are using cocaine),” the person said.
Law enforcement also reported a new trend in transporting heroin.
“(There’s a) growing trend on taking females for ‘body-carry’ to avoid detection,” the professional said. “Pull them over, a dog detects it… can’t find it and there’s a female sitting there. I know where it goes but unless you have probable cause to warrant a body-cavity search, you aren’t going to get it. That’s probably the newest thing in the past six months to a year.”
The report was compiled by the Ohio Department of Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services’ Ohio Substance Abuse Monitoring Network.