Pubdate: Wed, 14 Oct 2015
Source: Columbus Dispatch (OH)
Copyright: 2015 The Columbus Dispatch
Author: Alan Johnson


Sam Quinones says it took a crumbling community to feed the heroin 
problem and it will take a thriving community to beat it.

The message from Quinones, an author and former journalist, at the 
Columbus Metropolitan Club on Tuesday underlined a painful lesson 
playing out every day around Ohio. Heroin kills, destroys lives, rips 
apart families and undermines community.

"Heroin's natural habitat is struggling areas," he said. "The 
destruction of community paved the way for this. It happens when we 
isolate and fragment."

Quinones is the author of Dreamland, a book published earlier this 
year describing America's heroin epidemic, with a particular focus on 
Ohio. Quinones spent time in Portsmouth, one of the areas hardest hit 
in the state by drugs, first by addictive pain pills and more 
recently by black-tar heroin flowing in from coastal Mexico.

The drug plus fentanyl, a synthetic, highly addictive opiate, are 
stalking and killing Ohioans in large numbers, the Ohio Department of 
Health reports. The state's overdose death toll hit 2,482 last year, 
a 17.6 percent jump over 2013. Each year sets a new record for 
fatalities; more than 12,000 people have been lost to overdoses since 2002.

Quinones and Paul Coleman, executive director of Maryhaven, a 
Columbus alcohol- and drugtreatment center, discussed the drug 
problem on a Metropolitan Club panel moderated by Ann Fisher, host of 
a talk show on WOSU-NPR News.

Coleman said heroin has quickly become the "drug of choice" of 75 
percent of patients seeking treatment at Maryhaven, compared to 20 
percent in the late 1990s.

Asked by an audience member about the idea of legalizing drugs, 
Coleman said, "We have one legal drug, alcohol. I can't see what we 
would gain as a society by legalizing other drugs."

Quinones said Portsmouth is making "exhilarating" strides in bouncing 
back from being the cradle of addiction, including a population of 
about 2,000 people who are in recovery from drug abuse. "It is taking 
control of its future in a way heroin does not like. Heroin thrives 
on failure and negativity."

Quinones, a former Los Angeles Times reporter, surprised a few in the 
audience by saying he thinks marijuana should be legalized. He was 
not referring specifically to State Issue 3, the legalization 
amendment Ohioans will decide in the Nov. 3 election.

"Legalizing it does not mean you want people to use it," he added.
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