wcpo.com: These myths about drugs and addiction are making the opioid epidemic worse


BY: Lisa Bernard-KuhnHillary Lake

CINCINNATI – By a host of measurements, the opioid epidemic delivered another year of devastating blows to countless families and communities in 2017.

Overdoses and deaths from opioid use remain at record levels locally. The number of children taken from drug-addicted parents has hit the highest levels logged in decades. Also alarming: HIV and hepatitis C infections fueled by IV drugs users have spiked to concerning levels across Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky.

The troubling trends appear to be a clear signal that the crisis isn’t curbing.

But some of the drivers making the problem worse, experts say, are rooted in myths and rumors.

Stories of so-called Narcan parties, for example, are circulating on social media and in some news media -- alleging groups of drug users are convening to get high and overdose together while an onlooker waits to revive them with Narcan.

Narcan spray demonstration.

But there's little evidence to suggest that incidents are occurring on a large scale – if at all – officials say.“Individuals are not out there trying to figure out how much higher they can get because Narcan is available,” said Dr. Shawn Ryan, who leads treatment and recovery programs at BrightView, a Corryville-based addiction treatment provider.

Such myths, experts say, are part of a mixed bag of urban legends and misinformation that make battling the real crisis more difficult.

“It’s important to understand how destructive these urban legends, myths… can be in further stigmatizing the disease (of addiction),” Ryan said. “As long as they latch on to these ridiculous notions, like Narcan parties, it gives them more … leeway or credence to say, ‘See, look what these crazy people are doing.’

Newtown Police chief Tom Synan, who is a member of Hamilton County’s Heroin Task Force, agrees.

“The problem with the rumors: One, it causes this hysteria. And, two, it makes it difficult for us to get past the stigma," he said. “When you have information that is not accurate, or solely based on someone’s opinion… it makes it difficult for us to try to move forward on this issue.”

To separate fact from fiction, WCPO reporters Lisa Bernard-Kuhn and Hillary Lake asked local experts to weigh in on some of the most common myths and misinformation about drug use and addiction. Here’s what they had to share: