SIDNEY — Mainlining. Loud. Fire. 420. Vaping. Drugs and alcohol are often concealed by users through vague terminology and creative methods that are unknown to those closest to them, but law enforcement is working to help educate and overcome this barrier.
A program called “Operation: Street Smart” reached over 200 Miami and Shelby county residents Wednesday at Sidney’s Middle School. The program was created by the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office in collaboration with their special investigations unit and DARE. It is designed to educate those who work with today’s population on terminology, paraphernalia, trends, concealment techniques and physiological effects.
The adult drug education program was created in July 2002 to help combat drugs in their community through community oriented policing. It has been presented over 1,500 times to over 150,000 people throughout the United States.
Retired Capt. Shawn Bain and Sgt. Dan Johnson of the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office led the presentation, passing around concealment devices and showing photos of and examples of drugs and methods. “Operation: Street Smart” received the FBI Director’s Community Leadership Award in May 2004.
They presented on concealment of drugs and alcohol, methods of using alcohol, opioids, prescription drugs, marijuana, heroin and fentanyl, as well as how these drugs affect the user and can be detected by an educated individual. Some concealment methods seemed absurd: bleach containers with hidden compartments, dented spray cans of lubricants, a pipe inside of a highlighter and even resealed bags of name-brand potato chips.
“Long before you find the drug you’re going to find the paraphernalia associated with it,” Bain said. “It’s very important that if you find an item in your world you ask yourself if it makes sense where you find it.”
Bain retired from Franklin County’s Sheriff office two years ago after working there for over 30 years and has been working with narcotics for 24 years. He is currently the Drug Intelligence Officer for Ohio through the High Intensity Drug Trafficking task force.
He told attendees some facts from current data about Ohio:
• Ohio is no. 1 in the country for opioid related deaths, with 9 deaths in Shelby county in 2015 and an expected increase to 11 in 2016.
• Addictions start in the teen years in 90 percent of cases.
• According to the National Institutes of Health, 31 percent of fatal accidents are caused by alcohol impaired driving, and according the Center for Disease Control there are 88,000 alcohol related overdoses.
• In 2015 there were 52,404 non-alcohol related overdose deaths in the nation, with opioids accounting for 33,091.
• Marijuana is the number one illicit drug and THC levels in street marijuana have risen from an average of less than 1 percent in 1973 to an average of 10-14 percent THC content now. Some strains can run as high as 37 percent.
• In 2015 nearly half of all U.S. opioid overdose deaths involved a prescription opioid, and opioid drugs are now responsible for more American deaths than guns.
The Center for Disease Control’s numbers from 2015 show that on average 91 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose. The 2016 statistics are expected to show a rise from 3,051 drug related deaths in Ohio to an estimated 4,200 in 2016, and early estimates for 2017 rising as high as 5,000.
Dawn Eilert, vice president of Sidney-Shelby County Chamber of Commerce, was a driving force in bringing the program to Sidney. She saw the program in March 2016 just after her cousin overdosed.
“For me, it was personal,” she said. “Two years ago on Sept. 1, 2015, I lost a 22-year-old cousin to a heroin overdose laced with fentanyl. My cousin was the classic story, he started on pain medications and eventually progressed to heroin because it was cheaper.”
The Shelby County Safety Council and the Miami County Safety Council presented a plaque to Bain and Johnson to recognize their work.
“We’ve gotta change the perception,” Eilert said. “It could be someone in your family.”
Help with addiction is available at mha.ohio.gov, drugabuse.com and recovery.org.