VERMILION — Jackie Rivera keeps a drug test on her kitchen counter and tests her 18-year-old son, a former heroin addict, at any time of the day.
“I’m very vigilant” Rivera said.
She encourages other parents to be the same way.
Rivera was one of many parents of heroin addicts who showed up at a “Let’s Get Real” panel discussion about heroin addiction on Wednesday night at Ritter Public Library in Vermilion.
Speakers included ex-addicts, a police officer and members of various recovery groups ifrom Lorain County. Around 56 people attended the discussion, which was aimed at family and friends of heroin addicts.
The tone of the evening was more hard-hitting than conversational.
“The only tolerance you can have is (zero),” said Kim Eberle, one of the panelists and organizers of the discussion.
Eberle and other panelists spent almost two hours talking about how to determine whether someone is a heroin addict and how to help him or her get sober.
“You need to get nosy, you need to look” said Eberle, adding that certain code words like “horse,” “dog food” and “brown” indicate that someone is talking about heroin.
Additionally, Eberle said, parents and family members of possible addicts should look out for burnt spoons, cotton balls and vials of water, all of which might be signs of heroin use.
Unfortunately, Eberle said, most heroin addicts must hit “rock bottom” to stop using.
“There must be some huge consequence (of using heroin) to make people survive” Eberle said, adding frankly, “homelessness works.”
This was the second panel discussion in an ongoing series of open forums to address the growing problem of heroin use around Lorain County, and it couldn’t come at a more pertinent time.
In the last year in Lorain County, overdoses from heroin use have increased from 35 percent to 65 percent of all overdoses.
Vermilion police Officer Craig Howell, who spoke at the forum, attributes this to many addicts switching from a dependence on prescription pills like Percocet to a dependence on heroin, which is much cheaper.
“I’ve just seen (heroin use) grow and grow more recently,” said Brad, a panelist and ex-heroin user who went by his first name.
“I’ve probably been to more funerals in this year than in the last 10.”
Eberle and other panelists intend to continue hosting “Let’s Get Real” forums across the county to spread awareness about heroin addiction and where to get help with the detoxification process.
Contact Anna Merriman at 329-7245 or firstname.lastname@example.org.