Cuyahoga County prescription, heroin deaths up 79 percent

CLEVELAND - The Cuyahoga County Coroner reports deaths by prescription drugs and heroin overdoses have risen by 79 percent in the city of Cleveland and by 176 percent in the suburbs over the last five years.

New state-wide data shows the drug is easier to get than even in Ohio.

David Rodriguez is a drug counselor at Catholic Charities in Cleveland. He said 60 percent of his clients are trying to overcome heroin addiction.

"Now, it's everywhere," he said. He knows the pain his clients go through. Rodriguez was addicted to the drug for 15 years.

"Emotionally, I hit bottom."

He's been clean for the last two decades and he's trying to help others get there. He said many of today's heroin addicts start with another drug: prescription pain killers.

"Four people in Ohio die everyday from a prescription opiate overdose. And what happens is, when you lose your supply of prescription opiates, you turn to something that is actually cheaper and more available, and that's heroin, " said Dr. Christina De Los Reyes, the Chief Clinical Officer for the ADAMHS board in Cuyahoga County.

De Los Reye said a report by the Ohio Department of Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services surveyed heroin users the people that help them and the people that arrest them.

"It basically found that heroin was so common it was like it was falling from the sky," she said.

De Los Reyes and Rodriguez agree besides treatment, the only way to get a handle on this problem is by telling people about it.

"We have to tell as many people young people, their parents, doctors, pharmacists, as many audiences as we can about what this epidemic is and how it's killing people in the state of Ohio," she said.

There is a statewide opiate summit in Columbus May 7 and 8. Agencies from all over Ohio will gather to discuss the problem and how to fix it.

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