Today I learned that my old home town, Akron, Ohio, has a serious problem with heroin.
I first saw a story about a 16-year-old boy named Andrew Frye who died of a heroin overdose. His mother and grandmother have been charged with involuntary manslaughter and other crimes in the case because they supplied the heroin and fentanyl that he, and they, and two of their friends used together at a “party” in a motel room. What kind of mother and grandmother would give a child heroin? The story explains that both the mother and grandmother, and the other two friends in the hotel room, have a history of drug-related crime.
The death in a hotel room happened in Akron — and the story explains that heroin use is sweeping across the Buckeye State like the scythe of the Grim Reaper. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Ohio had the second-highest number of drug overdose deaths in the country in 2014, primarily from heroin and pain-killer opioids; more than 2,744 Ohioans died from overdoses that year. A Google search reveals other brutal family stories, like the one about a father and son who died of heroin overdoses in an Akron attic and weren’t found until six days later.
Akron had three times as many heroin deaths as homicides last year, and Akron police have formed a special unit that investigates every heroin death and tries to determine who supplied the drugs that produced the fatal overdoses. The unit has had some successes — including prosecuting one reprobate who was selling heroin and fentanyl to people attending Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings — but the problem seems overwhelming, and this year heroin-related deaths seem to be rising.
Many of us live in worlds that aren’t exposed to heroin and drug-addicted mothers, but because we don’t see it doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. It just means we’re lucky, and kids like Andrew Frye weren’t.