Today, August 31, 2021, is International Overdose Awareness Day. The underlying theme of this day is to break through the stigma of drug addiction and death by drug overdose. This stigma breeds shame, humiliation, and loneliness. It thwarts those who are deep into the disease from seeking help. It isolates those who are left behind from overdose from finding solace. This is why this website was created. Mary’s story epitomized this stigma.
International Overdose Awareness Day is a day to allow those who have experienced the loss of a loved one from overdose an opportunity to publicly mourn. It is a day to bring awareness, to bring people together to dialogue about the risk of overdose, how to access resources, and how to prevent addiction and overdose. It was initiated in 2001 in Australia by a social worker, Sally J Finn who worked at The Salvation Army in St. Kilda, Melbourne. She addressed the Australian Salvation Army in a kickoff to this day by telling the story of how this day came about.
Harbor’s Heroin Opiate Initiative in collaboration with the Toledo Lucas County Public Library held a book group discussion last month with Author Sam Quinones of his book, Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic. Sam Quinones writes in his book that heroin “thrives in isolation.” The author addressed this in his discussion of the book and referenced the importance of community and human connectedness. We grow and develop through social, physical and emotional contact which are essential aspects of being human. Social emotional supports are vital in the lives of those in recovery. The isolation brought about by the attempt to curtail the spread of COVID 19, has been challenging to all of us and especially those battling Substance Use Disorders (SUD) and those in recovery. I referred to this isolation brought about by the pandemic in a previous post and have been reflecting since that time. This pandemic is uncharted territory. Are we going to face another stay-at-home order? What about the variant strains we are hearing about? These uncertainties and loneliness can compound into some very uncomfortable, stressful feelings. We all need ways to try to connect with loved ones and our support networks during this time. It can be helpful to reach out to help lines that are available throughout the country and in your local communities. Locally, in Lucas County, an Emotional Support Line (419 442 0580) was created as a resource to assist people with their mental health during isolation. For additional information about how to deal with the stress of the pandemic, review this SAMSHA publication.
Come join Harbor’s Heroin/Opiate Initiative and the Toledo Lucas County Public Library on Thursday, July 22nd at 6:00 p.m. in an on line discussion of the book, Long Bright River, which is a heart-wrenching, suspense filled fictional story about a family that is impacted by the opioid epidemic. For more information or to register and order books go to: https://events.toledolibrary.org/event/5028416 or call 419-259-5200.
If you are interested in bringing a free presentation or book group to your organization, contact Kathy Schnapp: firstname.lastname@example.org | 419-214-3631.
I know that throughout my life time as a parent and as a professional I have been part of conversations with adults about how to handle” the talk” with their children. What talk? What comes to mind is the, “where do babies come from” talk…when to begin that talk, what to say, etc. As I have seen stigma paralyze the “talks” that we need to enter in with our children around so much more than where babies come from, I realize that parents and those that are raising grandchildren and extended family members may indeed need some guidance on how to have those conversations. It is important to begin to dialogue with our children about many things including drugs, alcohol, dependence, and addiction. It is also important to note that dialoguing about any of this is not for an isolated incident but is a process that continues over time. The State of Ohio’s Start Talking Campaign offers a great tool to assist us in starting those conversations beginning in early childhood and throughout our children’s developmental years: https://drugfree.org/article/prevention-tips
Another tool, that I have used with adolescents as well as adults in helping to describe the disease of addiction, is this video that is produced by the Drug Free Action Alliance.
Sometimes we need more help in offering support to our children. There are grief groups for children who have lost their loved ones to the disease of addiction and there are mental health agencies that provide counseling to children and their parents and/or guardians. Reach out to the Mental Health and Recovery Services Board in your state or county for a listing of contracted services in your area. Harbor is one of those agencies that offer Mental Health Services to children in the Lucas, Wood and Hamilton County areas.
I have delivered hundreds of presentations for the Heroin/Opiate Initiative in the five years as an employee of Harbor. Often, I am asked, “why” or “how” we have gotten to the point where drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in Ohio and throughout the U.S. I remember in those early years really struggling to answer those questions because the opioid epidemic is multifaceted and evolved over time. There is no simple answer. I now refer people to read Dreamland…… The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic by Sam Quinones. This book nicely outlines those contributing factors that lead us to this point in history where we are not only battling a major health pandemic, COVID-19, but also a troubling opioid overdose epidemic.
I have read Dreamland many times and have studied its contents. The author presented his book to the Toledo area in October of 2017 in an event sponsored by the Mental Health and Recovery Services Board of Lucas County and the Toledo Lucas County Public Library. Because of our collaborative relationship with the Lucas County Public Library, I was welcomed to host a book group for people who wanted to explore those many facets to this problem. The library, in January, 2020 assisted the Heroin/Opiate Initiative in providing a discussion of Dreamland with the author. That January evening there was a group of people gathered at the library in Sylvania, Ohio with Sam Quinones joining in through a virtual platform. He is coming again to discuss the book with Harbor and the Library on June 24th from 6:00 pm- 7:30 pm live on Harbor’s Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/HarborHelps We invite all of you to join in the discussion even if you haven’t read the book. If you are interested, however, in reading the book you can borrow it from the Toledo Lucas County Public Library https://www.toledolibrary.org/
Sam Quinones’ Dreamland was initially published in 2015. He will be releasing a follow-up book, The Least of Us on October 12, 2021. The Heroin/Opiate Initiative’s staff will certainly be reading this new book and who knows, may just gear up to offer book group discussions about The Least of Us as well. Until then, consider joining in on June 24th.
The Heroin/Opiate Initiative is providing an on-line presentation as part of a collaborative effort with the Toledo Lucas County Public Library. Come, join us and check out what we are about on Tuesday, May 18, 2021 at 6:00 pm. Register at: Fighting Heroin: The Heroin/Opioid Epidemic – Toledo Library
Community efforts to contribute to making a significant reduction in opioid drug overdoses and overdose deaths have been interfered with by the COVID pandemic. Instead of seeing a decline in overdoses, we are experiencing a surge in overdoses throughout the country. I know that I have been personally affected by the isolation that was forced upon us by a virus. We all have had to navigate our world differently during this time of COVID. Connecting socially is so important to us as humans. Positive social support is especially vital for those with a substance use disorder during recovery. Sam Quinones describes in his book, Dreamland…The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemicthat heroin thrives in isolation. This is true for an addiction to any substance.
Sam Quinones goes on to say, “I believe more strongly than ever that the antidote to heroin is community.”
But many during the past year have been forced into quarantine and on top of that, have lost jobs increasing the feelings of stress and uncertainty and a disconnect from community. Isolation, stress, uncertainty seems a recipe for relapse. It is so important for us to keep abreast of available supports. A Place For Mary lists programs, support groups, other resources and crisis numbers for ourselves and our loved ones. And if we are concerned that a loved one may overdose on an opioid, we have an opportunity to mail order through the DAWN project at the Lucas County Health Department two doses of Narcan (also known as “Naloxone”) Narcan is a remedy for an opioid overdose. Administered in the nostril, the drug will reverse the overdose. I recommend carefully reviewing the video that comes with the dosage as it is important to understand not only how to administer, but how the drug works and the protocols involved in administering. To learn more about Narcan and how to receive it for emergency purposes, go to:
Since 2010, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has partnered with Law Enforcement agencies across the United States to “take back” unused and expired medications from the homes of citizens during semi-annual Drug Take Back Days. As a result of this concerted effort, more than 6,842 tons of medications have been collected and removed from potential abuse. Once again, the Greater Toledo Area, through the coordination of the Sylvania Community Action Team and with support from the Mental Health and Recovery Services Board of Lucas county will be participating in this effort. On Saturday, April 24, 2021 from 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m., Lucas County Police departments, local pharmacies, hospitals, and other community support groups will take part in our local Drug Take Back Day.
This event is designed to make it easy for us to remove potentially addictive substances from our homes. Fatal drug overdoses remain the number one cause of accidental deaths in Ohio. As many of us are keenly aware, prescription opioid abuse can lead to heroin and other opioid addiction. Many addicted to heroin began their addiction by misusing prescription pain medications.
Many people get their supply of opiates (such as Percocet, Vicodin, OxyContin) for non-medicinal purposes from the homes of their parents, grandparents, or family friends. We can take action against the growing overdose epidemic by safely storing prescription medications and disposing of unused medications.
If you have unused or outdated prescription medications at home, this is your chance to clean out the medicine cabinet, nightstand, kitchen shelf or wherever you have stored old prescription medications and dispose of them safely at a Take Back collection site on April 24th.
Here is a list of the Drug Take Back Day collection sites in Lucas County:
Contact Kathy Schnapp, Prevention Educator, Harbor, email@example.com, for free presentations on the Heroin and Opiate Epidemic in Lucas County for your organization, business, or or community group.
I will be managing A Place For Mary website and will be periodically blogging on the site and, therefore, thought I would introduce myself to you. I first want to thank all of those who have followed this site since its inception in 2016. I hope that you have been passing forward any of its content that may have helped inform you about addiction and supports for families. Special thanks to Betsy, whose dedication to providing a safe place for families to visit to find resources has been admirable and never ending.
l am Kathy from Harbor and I will be taking over this website as part of Harbor’s Heroin/Opiate Initiative. The initiative is made possible through funds provided by the Mental Health and Recovery Services Board of Lucas County. It was organized in 2014 as a response to the overdose epidemic and consists of the provision of video-based presentations that bring awareness and education about the overdose epidemic. You may have seen the logo and viewed the video on this website.
I am proud to be the current provider of most of the initiative’s presentations. I am motivated to this work because of the impact addiction has made on me. As I grew up, I experienced addiction in my family…. but I had no name for it. It was never talked about. My father would brag that he never had a cigarette to his lips, and that he would never drink to access. But he did not mention that his father, a heavy smoker, lost a job as a firefighter in Detroit and that he moved his family to Toledo to find work because of his alcoholism. Although I did not know that my Grandfather was addicted to alcohol, I did know that many of my relatives had “a drinking problem.” I did not know until years later what that meant. I am describing stigma here. My heart broke when I heard Mary’s story. I identified with the isolation she must have felt when she tried to navigate through her son’s addiction. Addiction to any substance, whether it is alcohol, prescription medications, cocaine, heroin was, in my growing up, considered to be a matter of choice and succumbing to any substance, a matter of weakness. Addiction was shameful to talk about, was avoided and the consequence of the avoidance is still, in my situation, being experienced.
We know better now. Addiction, or substance use disorder, is a relapsing, treatable disease of the brain. We must not succumb to stigma, but fight stigma. The first steps are information and support. That is what A Place For Mary is all about. This site provides information about the disease and most importantly, information about the resources available for the family so that the silence is broken. My fervent hope is that no one lingers in the stigma as did Mary.
Identifying an opioid abuse problem in a close relative or friend can be difficult. Addressing it can be even more difficult, but could mean the difference between life and death.
This article, “How to tell if a loved one is abusing opioids,” from the Mayo Clinic provides many “look out” points to help you begin to recognize when there may be a problem. It will also address feelings you will experience when you either suspect a problem, or know for sure that there your loved one is hiding an addiction.