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Special Assignment: Fatal Epidemic: Drug use among youth
Updated: Tuesday, November 5 2013, 10:59 PM EST
By Jon Rudder
COLUMBIANA COUNTY, Ohio - Doctors at East Liverpool City Hospital said that heroin has been a growing problem, and each year more people fall victim to this deadly addiction.
Heroin is a drug that grasps users and rarely ever lets go. Its use in the Ohio Valley has skyrocketed and Columbiana County hasn't been immune to the trend.
The strength of the drug and the hold it has on someone is difficult to understand. For someone totally uninvolved, its effect can seem hardly real. However, the heartache it can cause is what resonates through family and loved ones, and its destruction continues to hit closer and closer to home.
Of 16 drug deaths in 2012, four were caused by heroin. This year, that number has risen to 20 and heroin has caused 12 of them, according to the Columbiana County Coroner's Office.
"It seems to come in spurts; we had quite a few overdoses a couple of months ago," Dr. Ross Lentini, an emergency room doctor at East Liverpool City Hospital said. "It's horrible to see a young person come in in that condition, and especially when they're, when they're dead."
Lentini has had countless encounters with heroin overdoses this year and they're typically the same.
"A car will roll up to our emergency room doors and someone will jump out and holler that they have somebody that's not breathing," Lentini said. "We bring them back into our department and frequently we can see track marks."
Six months ago, Todd Wright lost his sister Samantha to a drug overdose. He is now one of many loved ones left behind, searching for answers.
"That was the hardest thing to cope with, is not being able to understand why she would do something like that," Wright said.
With a year between them, their bond was unique and strengthened over time. Coping with her death has been difficult.
"The longer it's been it seems like it gets a little bit easier every day," Wright said. "But it never really gets easy. It's never east."
Reminders are littered all over the house, and often Wright finds himself in a daze where he can almost see his sister.
"Sometimes, whenever I'm here, I can kind of hear her walking down the stairs from her room or her bedroom door opens, and then you just snap out of it," Wright said.
Moving forward, Wright has built a memorial to his sister in his home as a way she can always watch over him. However, this Christmas and Thanksgiving will be the first without his younger sister, another painful indication of this difficult loss.
"It's hard to think that we'll never be able to share another holiday together, that's the hardest part," Wright said. "My children won't be able to share the holidays with their Aunt Samantha."
And he offered a word of advice to anyone who may know someone suffering from this deadly addiction.
"If you know someone who is dependent on drugs, don't be so quick to turn your back on that person," Wright said. "You should do everything you can do help them. It's not worth losing someone close to you."