FLINT, Mich. — There is currently an opioid epidemic happening in our area and across the nation. Opioid use continues to be on the rise.
There has been an increase in overdose deaths related to heroin laced with fentanyl or carfentinal (animal tranquilizer),” said Kim Shewmaker, Director of Programs Operations for Flint, Michigan’s Odyssey House drug and alcohol treatment center.
Michigan resident Aaron Emerson knows the struggles of battling a heroin addiction.
“I overdosed three times and I thought I would never get clean and ultimately die,” said Emerson.
Emerson addiction started with opioid use before progressing into heroin.
“My addiction started as weed and alcohol and progressed to proscriptions medicines like Vicodin and OxyContin. They ultimately led me to heroin use because it was more potent but way cheaper,” said Emerson.
Since 2011, Genesee County’s law officials and medical personal has been coping with the increasing trend of opioid and heroin use.
“We are seeing an increase of heroin and opioid use. We categorize those substances as the fastest growing among young adults that are battling drug addiction,” said an American Addiction Center advocate.
Local authorizes are working with rehabilitation centers to treat addictions as a disease, rather than a criminal offense.
“Law enforcement is familiar with our program and on occasions will drop individuals off at our program. However, more work is done on the judicial side of things. We support our clients in court in hopes to educate the disease of addiction and to allow the individual an opportunity to continue treatment in lieu of incarceration,” said Shewmaker.
Now three years clean, Emerson agrees that addiction should be treated as an illness.
“Unless someone has committed a crime that puts someone in danger, help needs to come before punishments and there is no help in prison or jail,” said Emerson.
“I don’t have specific statistics on Genesee County and Flint that tells me how many drug users are imprisoned versus how many are placed in rehabilitation centers, but from my years of experience working with American Addiction Centers, we tend to see people put away for drug related crimes rather than given an opportunity to be placed in rehab to become clean and healed,” said Cox.
“Prisoners are released without the tools necessary to stay clean that rehab teaches you, so a lot of time, we see drug users and people battling addiction falling into a cycle,” said Cox.
“Utilizing the Therapeutic Community Model, we treat addiction as whole and not by drug of choice. We are in constant communication with local law enforcement trying to help those battling addiction, whether they are sent away to jail or rehab,” said Shewmaker.