Lakewood OH

Exploring Northeast Ohio’s heroin problem

By Nicole Hennessy


Last year I wrote a short series about heroin use in Northeast Ohio – an epidemic, they say. A seemingly unsolvable situation after a decade of opiate-based painkillers being prescribed for every little ailment, ache and pain, until the number of addicts became noticeable and the process to stop the trend began, forcing users to turn to the illegal version, heroin.

I watched this happen to a friend of mine from high school.

I distanced myself from her the first time I found her stash – one of her two sons’ lunchboxes filled with prescriptions.

The last I heard, her mother-in-law has the kids and she was a full-blown heroin addict.

There were other friends, some who eventually got clean; friends’ family members, one who OD’ed.

There are more, I’m sure. I don’t know. And it’s not like I associate with “bad” people. I’m an average graduate of a suburban school and a university. Doesn’t that fact alone say something?

Just another example of how capitalism can’t function and consider the well-being of the society that fuels it. Profits and losses – nothing more – as was coldly explained in my microeconomics course.

Still, there’s no arguing the necessity of some sort of pharmaceutical industry.

Sick people need drugs.

However, addictive drugs create addicts and clearly have not been distributed responsibly.

Just the other week, I read about another doctor arrested for prescribing narcotics for money.

I’ve known I wanted to explore this situation in greater depth for a while, headlines like this reminding me why.

I reread my previous pieces on the subject, unsatisfied with how stale they seemed, shallow, almost.

I’m sure this has a lot to do with the fact that I’m a writer, which means I’m rarely ever completely satisfied with any of my work.

It’s this cycle of improvement and slight self-loathing that prevents people who say, “I can’t write” from creating anything moving. The same goes for those who just use writing as a sort of fashion accessory, to seem interesting or something.

So I started working on another piece, covered a forum that was more about political types getting their names in the paper than actually getting at whatever was missing from my pieces and started talking to a lot of different people.

Whatever was missing stayed missing, even from my interviews – a 20-year-old recovering addict, a drug-prevention specialist and so on.

The more people I talked to, the more lost I became, confused.

So it was decided that I should tackle this in the first person, my strongest voice as a writer anyway.

Maybe what was missing the whole time was me.

Maybe I can’t get out of the way because this affects everyone.

What I’m searching for is evidence that there is, in fact, a problem, but it’s much more.

It’s a lack of mental health care, greed, consumerism, acceptance of a culture that looks the other way, even a war that won’t end, affecting the consciousnesses of this country.

I may not be qualified to expose a new root of the problem, but what I can do is more than situational reporting that exposes little truth other than the fact that this is all nonfiction.



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