(WLNS) – As the opioid and heroin epidemic rises, looking back to where it often starts, may surprise people.
According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, four out of five heroin users started with opioids. But where do users get this gateway to an addiction, and often overdose?
Paul cook works with recovering opioid and heroin addicts to help them begin a new life. It’s a struggle he knows first hand, a struggle that can begin anywhere.
“You can’t put a visual on who is a drug dealer because its anybody,” Cook said.
Cook himself is a recovering addict. His addiction started in high school after doctors prescribed vicodin to him for continual shoulder surgeries from basketball.
“I could go to the doctor and say, he my shoulder is acting up, and get another prescription.”
Once the prescriptions ran out, Cook says his next pill was only a phone call away.
“Once you get connected with one person, they know somebody, and they know somebody, so its fairly easy to access those on the street.”
All too often, the first place people get those pills, is in the comfort of home.
“The kids in the high school level and the middle school level, they’re not buying it from drug dealers they are getting it from my medicine cabinet, your medicine cabinet,” Founder of Andy’s Angels Mike Hirst said.
Two out of three addicts get their drugs from people they know, whether those people know it or not.
Hirst says holding on to opioids can turn a negligent relative, into a drug dealer.
“Are you going to risk not going to the doctor, versus having your child become dependent on this, possibly even dying from this drug?”
There is something everyone can do to prevent this from happening, just take any unused pills to any drop off location and then black out name and address with a sharpie, and then drop it in the metal drop box.
On National Drug Drop Off Day, Mid-Michigan locations collected nearly 600 pounds of pills. It shows just how many people have left over opioids that need to be disposed of responsibly.
“We actually take the narcotics from the drop off center to a disposal center in Grand Rapids which incinerates them, which is the safe and EPA approved way of getting rid of these drugs,” Assistant Meridian Township Police Chief Ken Plaga explained.
Plaga says drug drop offs are the only way to safely dispose of these drugs. Flushing them down the toilet or throwing them away hurts the environment.
“Chemical compounds that are the by products of these drugs are showing up in our groundwater,” Ingham County Health Department Director Linda Vail said.
Even with law enforcement continuing to spread the word about drop off boxes, and added regulations for how many opioids a doctor can prescribe, Hirst says more can be done.
“Some kind of system where you make a phone call, an officer comes by and he is going to pick those up and he’s going to take the to a drop off.”
But Hirst says, the turning point will come when the last needed advocate gets involved, you.
“The component we’re really missing, is the people.”
People who drop off their drugs, so instead of becoming a part of the problem, they’re part of the solution.