By Courtney Kendler
Holt Journal Staff Reporter
With much of the country falling victim to the steady rise in heroin use, many ordinary communities across the nation are struggling when it comes to helping those with substance abuse problems. Holt is no different.
“A big problem in Holt right now is the same problem everywhere. It’s heroin. It’s huge,” said Delhi Township Supervisor C.J. Davis. “Nobody wants to talk about it. They’re ashamed to be involved in it, but it’s bigger than most people know.”
According to information from the Ingham County Health Department, 19 county residents died of heroin overdoses between January and June of 2015.
Ingham County Chief Sheriff’s Deputy Greg Harless expects this number to double before the year is over. “I’ll bet we will be in the 40s or near 45 by the end of the year,” he said.
While there are many reasons someone might turn to heroin, a majority of experts agree that the over-prescribing of prescription painkillers is a common gateway for many addicts.
According to addiction psychiatrist Dr. Norman Miller, “studies show clearly for years that over 50 percent of the people who become addicted to heroin started with prescription opioid medications.”
“People get on painkillers and then are taken off of them, and the only place they have to turn is heroin,” said Davis.
University of Michigan Professor of Psychiatry Dr. Amy Bohnert, who specializes in prescription drug overdoses, agrees that heroin addiction frequently sprouts from the use of prescription painkillers.
“Individuals are using prescription opioids and develop a problematic dependence on the medications and then either switch to heroin because it is cheaper or because they lose access to prescription opioids,” said Bohnert.
While movies may stereotype the typical drug abuser as someone who lurks in the shadows and is constantly strung out, Harless doesn’t believe there is such a thing as a conventional drug abuser anymore.
“The heroin users are the people next door. They’re the people who are sitting next to you in church and the people that you go to school with,” said Harless. “I think that most of us know somebody that is a heroin user … It’s people that we all work with, play with.
“It is such a universal problem.”