Medina County Sheriff Tom Miller said he knows firsthand the way drugs can devastate a family. He urged those in the room to continue to work to end the addiction cycle. “Many of these people were introduced to drugs through their parents, so it’s a real family issue,” Miller said.
China Darrington, a former addict who has been drug-free for 10 years, shared details of her personal struggle as part of Friday’s day-long seminar.
Mead Wilkins, director of Medina County Job and Family Services introduced Darrington and said those who have struggled themselves are in a better position to share the experience and help friends, family and caregivers. “China walks the walk and talks the talk,” Wilkins said. “We thank her for being open and honest with us.”
Darrington, who now lives in Summit County, talked about getting clean in 2003 and the impact her choices had on her now 15-year-old daughter she parents and a 9-year-old son she adopted out. “I am now 43 years old, and I have no business being alive this long,” Darrington said.
She said it’s important when working with addicts to remember the person inside who was once filled with hopes and dreams. “Once we picked up the drugs, it was easy to start pruning those dreams,” she said. “After a few years, we realize we’re surrounded by people we can’t trust and don’t like.”
Darrington said opiate addictions have grown in recent years, following the crackdown on illegal “pill mills” and doctors who incorrectly prescribed addictive opiates for addicts. “One oxycontin cost $80,” she said. “Now, you can go to a heroin dealer, and for $80, you get 10 bags of dope.”
She also said that the heroin being sold today is more potent than the drugs used in previous generations, meaning you don’t have to use a needle to get high. “For people who were very afraid of using needles, this is a much more approachable drug,” she said. She also said Ohio has high levels of drug trafficking because of its central location. “If you want to move drugs through the country, chances are, you’ve got to go through Ohio,” she said. Darrington also engaged in discussions with the audience about their concerns about and experience with drugs in Medina County.
One teacher raised her hand and said she had a 6-year-old student talking about drug terms with another child, she said she worries the child’s parents may be users.
A member of the audience who works in the juvenile court system said the courts regularly run drug tests on teenagers in the system. She said it once was rare for teenagers to get positive test results for opiates. Now, nearly all of them test positive for the drugs. Darrington said that’s because heroin and other serious drugs are becoming party drugs similar to alcohol and marijuana among the high-school crowd. “If you’re a teenager, you might go to a party, drink some beers, smoke some weed, and then maybe do some dope,” Darrington said.
In May 2013, a 17-year-old senior at Medina High School died of a heroin overdose two days before she was expected to graduate.
Over the course of the seminar, Darrington said she hoped to help attendees understand how to find indicators of drug use and addiction and how to stay safe while providing effective care for an addict. Darrington said overcoming childhood trauma was vital to her recovery. She said she didn’t get the intensive therapy she needed to overcome that trauma until she was in a drug treatment facility while pregnant with her second child. “I had been to treatment seven times before that,” she said. “Now that I was pregnant, all the gates were thrown open and I had access to trauma care.” She said addressing a childhood trauma helped to heal old wounds that had never been addressed. She recounted when she was used in a child sex-trafficking ring numerous times between the ages of 6 and 9 while visiting the home of a friend. She said the family was wealthy and had a daughter of the same age who attended kindergarten with her. Darrington’s single working mother had trusted the family care for Darrington while she worked. Those responsible were prosecuted, but Darrington said the wounds from the abuse never healed. “I went back to a loving and supportive household, but they didn’t know how to deal with something like that,” she said.
As she entered adulthood, Darrington found herself using drugs regularly to help her put aside painful feelings and memories. She said trauma often can lead to abuse, and once that abuse can be addressed and dealt with, it can be easier for addicts to heal.
Darrington said it’s important to remember that all addicts are people in need of help. “Remember there are humans inside those addicts,” she said. “It’s just hard sometimes to get them out.”
Contact reporter Loren Genson at firstname.lastname@example.org