It’s a secret in the suburban communities. A secret that stands on the street corners, hides in the classrooms, lurks in the newly built subdivisions, and litters its waste on the playgrounds of community parks. The secret that in 2011 claimed the lives of 5 Ohioans every day. Like a virus, addiction is indiscriminate in the lives it takes and destroys and each day that the issue is ignored it gains strength.
Like most suburbs outside of large cities, Pickerington has grown tremendously in the past 14 years. More real estate property means more jobs and more opportunities for those just starting to try to make a life in the outskirts of the city. It seems like a good thing: more jobs mean a better economy. Cheaper housing units mean even those surviving on minimum wage can afford a reasonably comfortable living. Unfortunately it isn’t just the hardworking that see the opportunities in growing communities like Pickerington. Criminals recognize it too.
Suburbs like Pickerington are a gold mine for drug dealers. An untapped market as well as a police force unequipped to deal with major drug cases, not to mention middle class customers possessing the means to afford hard drugs, fuel the quickly growing fire.
Narcotic medications are readily available, and heroin is cheap. Despite all the efforts by DARE and the anti-drug videos that students are shown, the problem with drug use in young adults and teens continues to grow rather than subside. In 2011 Ohio saw a record 1,765 deaths by heroin and opiate overdoses, 209 in Franklin County (neighboring county to Fairfield county where Pickerington is). In the past three years, Columbus and Pickerington Police have broken up drug rings connected to Mexican drug cartels, the main producers of black tar heroin. There's no hiding the crisis plaguing suburban communities.
Groups and organizations have formed over the past few years to fight the epidemic and to try to educate community members on the subject of addiction. Tyler’s Light is one such organization. Wayne Campbell, the founder of Tyler’s Light, knows the pain and suffering that addiction brings with it. On July 22, 2011, Wayne Campbell found his oldest son Tyler, dead from a heroin overdose, the morning after being released from rehab. It was this catastrophe that led to the creation of Tyler’s Light, “We can’t bring Tyler back, but we can do something to prevent others from going down that dark path,” Wayne says.
Tyler’s story of addiction to prescription painkillers following an injury which led to his heroin overdose is just one in countless other such tragedies. It seems to be a trend in the new breed of opiate addicts, legitimate prescription to painkillers, leading to addiction and seeking out the already readily available, and cheaper, heroin.
There is a hope that the efforts of police and organizations like Tyler’s Light will have an impact on the suburban opiate epidemic. The issue is one that cannot be solved in one night or even in one year, but with continued attention to the issue and efforts to educate the public on the topic of addiction, the next few years may show progress. As long as the tragedies and dangers of this issue don’t fall to the wayside, the fight against the needle may be one that can be won.