Michael Haney is one of many who works with individuals working to become clean and sober.
The area addiction program supervisor for Pathways Inc. says his own convictions about drug users have evolved since he first began working in the crisis unit in 1991, although his experience also tells him proper treatment is the only solution for those who want to break the cycle of addiction to substances such as crystal meth and heroin.
“Addiction gets in your head and drives you like a slave master,” Haney said, sitting in a small office at the Pathways crisis/detox facility at the corner of Greenup Avenue and 22nd Street in Ashland.
While heroin use seems to be increasing in the area, Haney said he’s certain the drug has been here for years.
“Heroin has always been around, I think. It has been in Huntington and Charleston for years. It’s almost like fashion. Heroin is the bell-bottom of the drug world,” he said.
“It (heroin) was pushed aside for the pure, easy to get pharmaceutical drugs,” he said, adding people often justified their use of prescription drugs by saying “I’m prescribed this. A doctor gave me this.” He responds to that logic by pointing out no doctor ever prescribed oxycodone “five times a day up your nose.”
The overuse of prescription painkillers in this area can almost be explained by the cultural expectation of hard work without complaint, Haney theorized, noting people who were hurt on the job often sought relief and found prescription drugs allowed them to return to work instead of allowing time to heal, resulting in even greater injuries and the need for additional drugs just to get by.
“And now, most of them are switching to heroin and meth. Those are the two big players,” he said, speculating narcotic use is divided “50/50 or 60/40 between pills and heroin.”
Considering the transition from prescription drug abuse to heroin use, Haney said the change is the result of increased efforts to solve the drug abuse problem through legislation and law enforcement. “We really have traded one thing for something else,” he said.
Haney said a late friend once gave him a valuable piece of advice to consider while working with people struggling against addiction.
“He said there are people who commit crimes to support their need for drugs, and there are also criminals that use drugs. A certain number of them — they are just criminals. I don’t want to give addicts a bad name by associating with them,” he said.
People who do seek help with addiction have limited options, Haney said, including Pathways’ nine-bed non-medical detox facility in Ashland, and a medical detox program at Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital. The non-medical detox facility has limited options for someone suffering from severe drug withdrawal, although there is more often than not a waiting list to get a spot in the program there.
“You have a lot of people wanting to get in. Often there is a waiting list, but other times they can get right in. Sometimes it may take a week or two to get a bed,” he said, noting he personally finds that waiting period to be especially tricky because therapists do not want anyone to continue using, but also know the dangers of a person stopping all at once.
For more information about addiction recovery programs available through Pathways Inc., call (606) 324-1141 or 800-562-8909.
TIM PRESTON can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.