Monday, March 13, 2017

Opioids and drug overdose deaths are beginning to plague farming communities

Roger D. Winemiller and his only living child
Roger T. Winemiller (Times photo by Ty Wright)
Drug addiction and overdose deaths are becoming a far too common occurrence in some farming communities, such as Clermont County, Ohio, where Roger Winemiller has lost two children to drug overdoses and a third has battled drug addiction for years, Jack Healy reports for The New York Times. "Overdoses are churning through agricultural pockets of America like a plow through soil, tearing at rural communities and posing a new threat to the generational ties of families like the Winemillers."

"Farm bureaus’ attention to seed, fertilizer and subsidies has been diverted to discussions of overdoses," Healy writes. "Volunteer-run heroin support groups are popping up in rural towns where clinics and drug treatment centers are an hour’s drive away, and broaching public conversations about addiction and death that close-knit neighbors and even some families of the dead would prefer to keep out of view."

Clermont County, located about an hour east of Cincinnati, has a low unemployment rate—4.1 percent—but "the economic resilience has done little to insulate the area from a cascade of cheap heroin and synthetic opiates like fentanyl and carfentanil, an elephant tranquilizer, which have sent overdose rates soaring across much of the country, but especially in rural areas like this one," where drug overdoses have nearly tripled since 1999.

Clermont County, Ohio
(Wikipedia map)
Ohio in 2014 led the nation in overdose deaths with 2,106, according to an analysis of the most recent federal data by the Kaiser Family Foundation. "In rural Wayne Township, where the Winemillers and about 4,900 other people live, the local fire department answered 18 overdose calls last year," Healy writes. "Firefighters answered three in one week this winter, and said the spikes and lulls in their overdose calls gave them a feel for when particularly noxious batches of drugs were brought out to the countryside from Cincinnati or Dayton."

The drug epidemic also has farmers, like Winemiller, concerned about who will take over the famly business when he's gone, Healy writes. "Winemiller and a cousin inherited the farm in 1993 when an uncle died, and they own and run the business together." While his remaining child has been clean for two months, and has said he wants to someday run the farm Winemiller "worries about what could happen to the business if he turned over his share of the farm and his son relapsed—or worse—a year or a decade down the line. He also keeps a pouch of overdose-treating nasal spray in the living room now, just in case."

No comments: