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Ohio, (the birthplace of Thomas Edison and John Glenn, as well as eight United States Presidents) is known as "The Buckeye State" because of its myriad of buckeye trees (commonly found throughout the Ohio River Valley) which produce small brown nuts; local legend has it that carrying one in your pocket will bring the bearer good luck. But sadly, no amount of luck can protect the Buckeye State from a debilitating phenomenon that is sweeping the country-drug and alcohol addiction.
Once known as the Nation's Industrial Capital, Ohio is currently the third largest manufacturing state, boasting a relatively comfortable average annual household income level of $74,109, and thus one might be tempted to think that it had been spared the wave of drug addiction affecting poorer states, but nothing could be further from the truth. In 2007, unintentional drug poisoning became the leading cause of injury death in Ohio, surpassing car crashes for the first time ever. This trend has continued through 2018, in which Ohio saw a drug overdose rate of 35.9 (per 100,000 people.)
When we look at the relationship between addiction and economics, we quickly realize that it's complicated. Drug and alcohol abuse affects the entire country, and no state in the US has been spared, including The Buckeye State. In 2016 the United States had over 60,000 overdoses, (a rate of 175 people dying per day!) And, although poorer people are statistically more likely to struggle with drug or alcohol abuse, correlation is not causation. This doesn't necessarily mean that people that are more well-off economically are less likely to become addicted. In fact in some cases, wealthy people can be thrown into poverty as a direct result of addiction. Someone who is solidly middle class can fall into poverty if their addiction leads to poor work performance and job loss. And, if someone has been fired from an old job, it can become a great deal harder to get a new one. It's a vicious downward spiral that is difficult to shake once its begun.
Much like the rest of the United States, prescription painkiller (opioid) addiction has blown across Ohio like an unstoppable blizzard, wreaking havoc on communities and tearing families apart. Prescription opioids were involved in more unintentional overdoses (40 percent) than heroin and cocaine combined (33 percent) in Ohio in 2008, with the opioids most associated with overdose being Oxycodone, Hydrocodone (Vicodin) and fentanyl. And fast forwarding ten years, Ohio drug overdose deaths in 2018 involving opioids were 3,237 (a rate of 29.6)! It's not a malady that a community is easily able to shake free of, once it has its hold. Opioid addiction is particularly menacing because, due to the highly addictive nature of the drugs, it can sneak up on even the most cautious of people, even when they think they're being vigilant.
Just as in the rest of the country, the root of the opioid problem in Ohio stems from doctors over-prescribing these highly addictive pills when, in many cases, lesser drugs like Tylenol, Excedrin or Advil will do. Opioids may seem safe because a doctor prescribes them, but just one or two of few these prescription pain pills can get people hooked and send them off on a path to full-on dependency. In 2018, Ohio providers wrote 53.5 opioid prescriptions for every 100 persons, (which is higher than the average U.S. rate of 51.4 prescriptions.) And, a recent study among Ohio youth found that 4% of Ohio youth (ages 12-17) reported using pain relievers in a way not directed by a doctor in the past year. (This is particularly concerning because we know how incredibly addictive these drugs are.)
Sadly many Ohio residents have discovered that abusing prescription painkillers can lead to using even more dangerous substances. The early 2000's saw an explosion of so-called "pill mill" doctors, and it seemed like opioids were being prescribed for anything and everything. Federal and state regulations now try to control and limit the prescribing of opioids, (a valiant effort) but it has resulted in the use of street drugs like heroin (which gives a similar high and is even cheaper to obtain on the street) growing exponentially in Ohio. In 2018, Ohio had 721 heroin-involved deaths (a rate of 6.6.) Heroin is shipped into Ohio from Chicago, Detroit, New York City, and various other cities along the Southwest Border. Dominican and Mexican criminal groups are trafficking wholesale amounts of heroin into the state at an alarming rate, and it's mostly a higher purity South American heroin, which has attracted a new, younger user population. This heroin can be snorted or smoked without the need for injecting it, which gives many younger users a false sense of security.
And, the long spiral downward doesn't stop there. When certain street drugs like heroin aren't available, drug addicts often then turn to incredibly dangerous synthetics like fentanyl, (which is far stronger than heroin) and the result is usually a body bag. Fentanyl was involved in nearly 73% of Ohio overdose deaths in 2018, often in combination with other drugs. (That percentage was up from 71% in 2017, 58% in 2016, and almost 38% in 2015.) In the United States as a whole, synthetic opioids, including fentanyl, are now the most common drugs involved in overdose deaths, responsible for 59% of all opioid-related decedents.
The good news for Ohio residents struggling with drug and alcohol addiction is that help is only a few clicks away. The Buckeye State has an abundance of resources to fit every need, whether you just want counseling, a broader more community-based approach, or are seeking full-on detox services. The important part is acknowledging the forces holding you back so you can shrug them off, take the very first step, and begin the journey towards breaking free. As Thomas Edison, the famous Ohioan once said, "Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time."
Ohio State Facts
Ohio Population: 11,326,467
Law Enforcement Officers in Ohio: 26,219
Ohio Prison Population: 64,500
Ohio Probation Population: 211,237
Violent Crime Rate National Ranking: 29
2004 Federal Drug Seizures in Ohio
Cocaine: 257.1 kgs.
Heroin: 8.6 kgs.
Methamphetamine: 7.4 kgs.
Marijuana: 439.1 kgs.
Ecstasy: 6,158 tablets
Methamphetamine Laboratories: 123 (DEA, state, and local)
Ohio Drug Situation: The primary drug threat in Ohio is powder and crack cocaine. The most violent crimes in the state are attributed to its distribution and abuse. Also, the rising availability of high-purity, low cost heroin is creating a large user population with a greater physical risk to users, who are younger than ever before. In the northern Ohio region, South American and Mexican black tar heroin are prevalent, while in the southern Ohio region, Mexican black tar heroin is predominant. Marijuana remains the most abused drug in the state. Ohio is a source area for marijuana cultivation, as well as a distribution point for Mexican marijuana from the southwest border. Club drugs and MDMA (ecstasy) are also growing in popularity in urban areas. Meanwhile, methamphetamine manufacturing and use are increasing, but has not reached the levels of other states in the Midwest.
Cocaine in Ohio: Cocaine HCL and crack combined constitute the greatest drug threat in Ohio. Cocaine is transported into Ohio from the southwest border, including California and Texas, as well as from Miami, Florida and New York City. Detroit, Michigan and Chicago, Illinois serve as transshipment points and distribution centers for cocaine shipped from the southwest border and transported throughout Ohio. Mexican and Dominican criminal groups and to a lesser extent other ethnic criminal groups are the principal transporters and wholesale distributors of multi-kilogram quantities of powdered cocaine in Ohio. Gram quantities sell between $100-$120, ounce quantities, $750-$1400, and kilograms $22,500 - $32,000. The purity levels for cocaine HCL range from 32.54 to 72.75 percent. Purity levels for crack cocaine range from 19 to 63.7 percent. The Ohio Department of Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services data indicates that the number of treatment admissions for cocaine abuse for 2003 was 9,879.
Heroin in Ohio: Heroin distribution and abuse are increasing in Ohio. Heroin signature analysis indicates that South American and Mexican black tar are prevalent in the northern Ohio region. In the southern Ohio region Mexican black tar heroin is predominant. Dominican criminal groups control the distribution of South American heroin, while Mexican criminal groups control the distribution of Mexican black tar heroin. At the retail-level, African-American, Dominican, and Mexican criminal groups are involved in heroin distribution. Heroin is shipped into Ohio from major distribution centers such as Chicago, Detroit, New York and various cities along the southwest border. Heroin is also transported on commercial airline flights into Ohio. Wholesalers use major Ohio cities such as Cleveland, Cincinnati, Columbus, and Toledo as distribution centers for smaller cities in and outside the state. Gram quantities sell between $140-$250 and ounce quantities $2400-$7000. The purity levels range from 23.5 to 57 percent . The Ohio Department of Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services data indicates the number of treatment admissions for heroin abuse increased overall from 6,878 in 2002 to 7,416 in 2003.
Methamphetamine in Ohio: Methamphetamine manufacturing and use are increasing in the state of Ohio. Local independent criminal groups, outlaw motorcycle gangs (OMG’s) and, to a lesser extent, Mexican criminal groups are primarily responsible for shipping methamphetamine into and distributing it throughout Ohio. Methamphetamine is also shipped into Ohio predominantly through mail and package delivery services. Methamphetamine distribution has also increased at “Raves” and on college campuses in Ohio. Purity levels range from 7.425 to 100 percent. Amphetamine/methamphetamine abuse in Ohio is prevalent and comparative to rates of abuse in other states in the region.
Club Drugs in Ohio: The use of Club Drugs such as Ecstasy (MDMA), GHB, Ketamine, and LSD has steadily increased in Ohio. Club Drugs are growing in popularity among young adults and juveniles, particularly in most urban areas of the state where “Rave” parties are also increasing. MDMA is the club drug of choice and represents the greatest future threat to Ohio’s youth. Most MDMA available in Ohio is produced outside the United States, typically in laboratories in the Netherlands and Belgium and transported through express mail services and by couriers on commercial airlines through distribution centers such as Miami, New York City, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. MDMA also reaches Ohio from Canada via New York and is transported via the interstate highways and public modes of transportation. Most traffickers of MDMA are loose-knit independent entrepreneurs. Retail dealers typically are suburban teenagers, usually high school or college students. The pills are sold at an average of $25 per pill.
Marijuana in Ohio: Marijuana continues to be the most widely abused and readily available illicit drug throughout the state of Ohio. The available supply of marijuana ranges from pound to multi-hundred pound quantities. Ohio is a source area for marijuana. The rural areas of Ohio provide an adequate environment for the outdoor cultivation of cannabis, most of which occurs in the southern part of the state. In northern Ohio, the use of hydroponics and other sophisticated indoor growing techniques that produce sinsemilla with a high THC content continues to increase. Mexican marijuana is also frequently encountered in the state of Ohio. The marijuana is shipped from the southwest border states. Large quantities are shipped into Ohio mainly overland, and smaller quantities through package delivery services and the mail. Mexican criminal groups are the dominant wholesale suppliers of marijuana in Ohio. They supply multi-hundred kilogram quantities of marijuana to most districts throughout the state. Local independent and Jamaican criminal groups also are responsible for shipping and distributing wholesale amounts of marijuana into Ohio in multi-kilogram quantities. Ounce quantities of marijuana sell between $100-$250, pound quantities $800-$4000, and kilogram quantities $1800-$3000. The Ohio Department of Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services data indicates that the number of treatment admissions for marijuana abuse increased from 17,896 in 2002 to 17,952 in 2003.
Other Drugs in Ohio: The diversion and abuse of OxyContin represent a significant drug threat in Ohio. OxyContin, a powerful pain reliever whose effects are the same as other opiate derivatives, is obtained legally through prescriptions as well as illegally on the street. Formerly seen as a drug of abuse primarily among the Caucasian population, law enforcement officials in Ohio report increasing abuse among African Americans. According to the Ohio Department of Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services, youth abusers of OxyContin have begun abusing heroin since they can no longer obtain or afford OxyContin. Continued incidents of overdoses and drug-related deaths were reported throughout the state during 2003. Also, a direct connection between abuse of this drug and drug-related robberies has been established.
DEA Mobile Enforcement Teams: This cooperative program with state and local law enforcement counterparts was conceived in 1995 in response to the overwhelming problem of drug-related violent crime in towns and cities across the nation. There have been 409 deployments completed resulting in 16,763 arrests of violent drug criminals as of February 2004. There have been six MET deployments in the State of Ohio since the inception of the program: Toledo, East Cleveland, Jefferson County, Lincoln Heights, Warren, and Youngstown.
DEA Regional Enforcement Teams: This program was designed to augment existing DEA division resources by targeting drug organizations operating in the United States where there is a lack of sufficient local drug law enforcement. This Program was conceived in 1999 in response to the threat posed by drug trafficking organizations that have established networks of cells to conduct drug trafficking operations in smaller, non-traditional trafficking locations in the United States. Nationwide, there have been 22 deployments completed resulting in 608 arrests of drug trafficking criminals as of February 2004. There have been no RET deployments in the State of Ohio.
DEA Special Topics: HIDTA: During June 1999, ONDCP designated areas within northern Ohio as the Ohio High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (Ohio HIDTA). The HIDTA region was expanded during 2004 to include central and southern Ohio counties. The Ohio HIDTA is comprised of the Ohio counties, Cuyahoga, Lucas, Mahoning, Stark, Summit, Fairfield, Franklin, Greene, Hamilton, and Montgomery. Currently the following agencies are assigned responsibilities in the Ohio HIDTA program: U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Internal Revenue Service, Bureau of Customs Enforcement, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, U.S. Marshalls Service, Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigations, and other local Police Departments and law enforcement agencies.