There’s New Drug Concern

Just when we may have thought it was possible to spot a tiny ray of light in our area’s battle against opioid abuse, a dark cloud has appeared.

Efforts to educate young people on the dangers of opioids, both those dispensed legally for pain relief and those sold on the street as heroin, have improved during the past few years.

One excellent program, “Heroin Starts Here,” was sponsored last week at Wheeling Park High School, by the Community Impact Coalition. Its focus was educating parents and other adults on how young people can become addicted to heroin.

The idea that some substances can serve as “gateway” drugs to heroin addiction is dismissed by many. But statistics indicate there is more than a little truth to the contention.

For example, we know beyond any doubt that those who become dependent on opioid painkillers are more likely to move on to heroin.

Many teenagers have found that an easy way to obtain pain pills is to take a few out of the medicine cabinet at home. Mom and dad will never notice, they hope. Too often, they are right.

That means adults need to be very careful with pain pills they may have been prescribed for legitimate reasons.

A similar situation exists with alcohol. Some teens have their first drink courtesy of their parents, who don’t notice that bottle of liquor in the cabinet contains less than it did a day or two ago.

During the “Heroin Starts Here” program, the danger of such carelessness was explained.

People — regardless of age — who become dependent on pain pills are 40 times more likely than others to become addicted to heroin.

Those who begin drinking before age 21 are four times more likely to become victims of alcoholism — and that makes them twice as likely to become heroin addicts.

And people who begin using marijuana as youths also face a greater prospect of addiction to heroin.

But marijuana is illegal for recreational use in both West Virginia and Ohio. However, it is likely that some time next year, it will be available for medicinal use in Ohio. West Virginia will follow suit by mid-2019.

A Steubenville official, discussing the potential for a medical marijuana dispensary in his city, made the danger clear: “There are sick people who need this help. But the medical marijuana will end up in a medicine cabinet and then into our schools and the general public,” warned City Councilman Gerald DiLoreto.

Indeed it will. And that will widen the avenue leading some people, including teenagers, toward heroin.

Clearly, medicinal marijuana will pose a new threat to those attempting to ensure young people are not ensnared by heroin addiction. That means all involved — police, educators, health care professionals and perhaps, especially parents –will need to add one more semi-legal substance to the list of those with which they must be very watchful.

COMMENTS