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Prevention Presents: A Place For Mary

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A Place For Mary
Kathy Schnapp, LSW, OCPSII
Prevention Education
Heroin & Opiate Initiative

If you have picked up a newspaper, listened to the news, or looked online within the past year, you will have learned that our state and local communities are facing an increase in heroin related overdose deaths. In fact, the Lucas County Coroner’s office has shared the alarming statistics that represents a nearly 2600% increase in heroin, opioid overdose deaths from 2010 to 2015. This data represents deaths that occurred in nineteen Northwest Ohio and two Southeast Michigan counties and equates to 8 overdose deaths in 2010 to 215 deaths in 2015.

Heroin is an illegal, opiate drug that connects with the pain and pleasure receptors in the brain and is very potent and very addictive. Fentanyl, Carfentanil and other synthetic opiates are even more powerful than heroin, have been added to heroin and credited with causing more of the recent overdose deaths.

Who becomes addicted?
Addiction does not discriminate. Addiction affects people from all socio economic backgrounds, ethnicities, ages, gender and races. Many people addicted to heroin began their abuse of drugs by misusing prescriptions pain medications such as Percocet, Vicodin, and OxyContin. They then transitioned to heroin as the drug is easy to get and less costly than prescription pills.

Heroin and other opiates activate the same brain circuits as do other behaviors linked to survival such as the need for food. The brain releases dopamine, which results in feelings of pleasure that the brain remembers and wants repeated. The signal to the brain’s pleasure center for the drug is more powerful than the signal for food making the need for the drug now a matter of survival and of relieving distress than of that of seeking pleasure. The addict now seeks the drug regardless of the consequences.*

What is the impact of an addiction?
Addiction certainly can have a considerable impact on the family. Because of the survival signals felt by the addict, the need for the drug can interfere with the individual’s parenting, work and family relationships. The drug becomes the most important thing to the addict because the brain is now altered by addiction.

Family members can feel isolated and can often blame themselves for the addict’s situation. Just as the addict can benefit from treatment and can begin a path to recovery, family members can seek help and support. A Place for Mary, an online resource, offers information that can assist family members in locating supportive services and in learning about the disease of addiction. Visit the website and meet some families that know first-hand the impact that this epidemic has on families.

As the website says, “Knowing where to find that first step can be difficult. A Place For Mary is here to help you."


Source: * Dr. Nora D. Volkow, Addiction and the Brain’s Pleasure Pathway: Beyond Willpower, HBO Addiction


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