For several families in Seneca County, opioid and heroin addiction has become an everyday struggle.
Connie Maksemetz, wraparound coordinator for Seneca County Family and Children First, said she recently has seen an increase in clients suffering with addiction, especially those addicted to opioids and heroin.
Common prescription medications classified as opioids include Oxycontin, Percocet and Vicodin, and many of these synthetic narcotics mimic heroin's affects, causing several opioid addicts to turn to heroin, Maksemetz said.
"Addicts want stronger and stronger opioids," she said. "The drug just consumes you.
"If someone is getting opioids and they can't find a prescription, they will turn to heroin because they'd rather do a balloon of heroin than go through withdrawal."
Maksemetz said heroin actually is cheaper than many opioids sold on the streets, making it tempting for a prescription medication addict to turn to the drug.
Seneca County Family and Children First, 201 S. Washington St., Tiffin.
Phone: (419) 443-0981
"From people I talk to, heroin is no worse than prescription drugs, you just don't know what exactly you're putting in your arm," she said.
For many addicts who don't turn to heroin, selling extra prescription medication is a way to earn money in order to purchase more medication.
"Some patients get more opioids than what they need to sell them and pay for next month's supply. Before long, they're selling whatever they can to make sure they have their opioids," she said. "That's just a vicious, ongoing circle."
Some doctors are feeding addicts' habits by over-prescribing opioids, Maksemetz said.
"It's my wish that doctors would be very cautious about prescribing opioids to anyone," she said. "So many families struggle with this opioid addiction. It just breaks my heart."
"Families need to know addiction happens to old, young, rich, poor, any profession and any religion. You need to take the stigma away from this. There are wonderful people who become addicted to things."
Fourty-six-year-old Peter*, of Tiffin, has been addicted to opioids for about 10 years and said he is going through withdrawal from Cyboxin, a prescription medication intended to help him through opioid withdrawal symptoms.
Peter's doctor is not writing prescriptions and he is now on a three-week waiting list for another doctor.
Because withdrawal symptoms are severe, he recently illegally purchased Percocet, he said.
"The withdrawal is too bad. I can't stand feeling like this," he said. "The only way I feel good is when I have it."
Peter said he originally was prescribed opioids for an injury, and the decade-long addiction has ruined his life.
"Opioids are so powerful. You feel good until you run out," he said. "When I have them, I feel like superman. When I don't, I feel like dying."
Withdrawal symptoms include cold sweats, tremors, headaches and diarrhea, Peter said, and he has had trouble sleeping.
"It's like the worst flu I've ever had," he said.
Peter said he is continuing to fight through the withdrawal symptoms and advises people to never get started on opioids.
"For someone going through it, hang in there," he said.
Chuck Boyer, Seneca County Drug Task Force-METRICH Enforcement Unit coordinator, said law enforcement has seen a large increase in heroin and prescription drug abuse, and 75 percent of METRICH's 2011 cases involve the two types of drugs.
"Prescription abuse and opioid abuse is bad. It's not just the area, it's all over, unfortunately," he said.
Boyer said many heroin abuse cases result from prescription drug abuse and from patients running out of their medication.
Education is a key in fighting drug abuse, Boyer said.
"We're even trying to educate the medical field as well and urge them to take precautions and monitor themselves in opioids," he said. "We all have to work together to battle this monster."
Maksemetz also agrees education is important for addicts and for family members of addicts. Groups such as Al-Anon can be a right hand in educating families about addiction.
Seneca County Family and Children First's Web site also has many helpful tools for families dealing with addiction, including a list of rehabilitation and detoxification centers, Maksemetz said.
"That's really kind of helpful because when it's a family member, it about drives you bonkers," she said. "It's very difficult for families."
"There's hope. I do know people who overcome addiction. It can happen; you just have to want it enough," Maksemetz said.