The state of Michigan hosted their first Heroin Summit yesterday in East Lansing at the Kellogg Center. The event was hosted by the Michigan State Police and the Michigan Department of Community Health and was put on to brainstorm ideas on how to fight the heroin and opiate epidemic that is killing people at the highest rate our state has ever seen.
I am very honored and proud to say that I was one of the speakers at this event. My recovery coach, Phil Pavona, was invited to speak as he is the Executive Director of Families Against Narcotics in Ingham County. Phil had me come with him and share my story and I was actually the only person that spoke who has actually used heroin. I feel so blessed to be able to use my story to try to help others, and this was a huge platform to do that in.
I have to be honest, I was as nervous as I have ever been and I almost felt out of place, being with Michigan government officials and commanders of law enforcement posts from all over the state. There was about 450 to 500 people in attendance and it went great. Once I got up there to speak, my nerves calmed down a lot. I think I did a decent job of getting my message out there and sharing the perspective of somebody who has actually been addicted to the drug they were talking about.
Christopher Behnan of the Lansing State Journal wrote an article on the summit and contacted me to give my input. I wanted to share with all of you the article that he wrote, because I think it is not only important to get the message and statistics of addiction, but to actually know that Michigan is taking positive steps to try to fight addiction. I will post the article below and am actually quoted in it. Please let me know what you think!
Heroin summit focuses on ways to battle addiction, use
Christopher Behnan, firstname.lastname@example.org
EAST LANSING – A nearly threefold increase in heroin overdose deaths in Michigan in less than 20 years and an influx of addicts filling clinic beds drew hundreds of health and law enforcement officials into one room Monday.
In what was dubbed the first Heroin Summit at Michigan State University’s Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center, the some 500 officials sought ways to keep the cheap and readily available drug off the street.
Hosted by the Michigan State Police and Michigan Department of Community Health, the daylong brainstorming event was largely closed to the media. The goal of the summit, officials said, was to discuss ways to cut off access to the drug they say plagues urban and rural areas alike statewide.
“We are seeing that the numbers are higher than they’ve ever been before. Heroin has been around since the 1800s but today the user is distinctly different than the users of decades before,” Michigan State Police Director Kriste Kibbey Etue said in her opening remarks.
“The outdated image of a lazy heroin addict laying around in a dirty back alley is just not correct today,” Etue added.
According to state figures, there were 271 heroin overdose deaths in Michigan between 1999 and 2002. There were 728 heroin overdose deaths in Michigan between 2010 and 2012. The number of people treated for heroin addition in publicly funded clinics in Michigan increased from about 6,500 in 2002 to about 13,000 last year, according to state figures.
Heroin addiction, officials said, often starts with prescription drug abuse. People often get hooked on opiods, the addictive component in heroin, through prescription pain killers with opiods. Once hooked on those prescription drugs, addicts often turn to heroin, which is often cheaper than prescription medications, officials said.
Mason High School graduate Aaron Emerson’s heroin addiction is the face of that trend.
Now 17 months sober, Emerson addressed officials at the Heroin Summit.
Emerson bought OxyContin from high school classmates who in many cases stole them from family members.
He once paid about $40 for 80 milligrams of OxyContin. He paid half that amount for an equal amount of heroin.
“I found a cheaper version that was even more potent and that was heroin,” said Emerson, now 23 and a Lansing Community College journalism student.
He said access to pain killers that led to his heroin use could have been avoided by family members securing their medications and properly disposing of their unused scripts.
In an effort to keep prescription pain killers out of the wrong hands, DCH officials are encouraging physicians to only prescribe them when absolutely necessary, DCH Director Nick Lyon said.
About 40 percent of addicts first abuse prescription drugs, officials said.
“We encourage our health care providers to only prescribe pain killers as necessary and to as few patients with potential substance abuse problems” as possible, Lyon said.
Etue said heroin use starts as young as age 14 and that most people start using the drug between ages 18 and 22. She said women are increasingly using the drug because they believe it will cause them to lose weight.
The drug typically comes to mid-Michigan from Detroit via Mexico, South America or Afghanistan. Etue said a significant amount of the drug arrives in Michigan by way of Chicago.
Heroin use and overdose deaths have been prevalent in parts of Livingston County, including in the Pinckney area.
Greater Lansing hasn’t been immune to the trend.
In 2012 in Ingham County, one of every three drug-related deaths was due to heroin overdose, officials said at the time. There were five fatal heroin overdoses in the county in 2010 and 16 fatal heroin overdoses in 2012.
The number of people seeking treatment for heroin addiction also has increased steadily in Clinton, Eaton and Ingham counties in recent years, officials said.
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