Surrounded by pills and the regular reminder that death was near, my grandpa spoke proudly about his lack of need for a daily regiment of pills. By this time, he was setting up quarters at an assisted living center, with months left to live.

Despite his failing health, he sat across from me in one of our regular life chats, and didn’t hesitate in showing his competitiveness, even in his late 80s. It was almost like he was back on the basketball court or the baseball diamond. This time, though, his opponent was his desire to not be dependent on living the remainder of his life with the assistance of pills.

Much like my grandpa, I’ve carried that same mindset for much of my life. I like to be in control, especially when it comes to functioning my body and brain. Being cautious against pain medication is something I likely go overboard with, but that has a lot to do with the onslaught of information flowing in from every corner of the United States.

Being in the news business provides me with access to articles on a daily basis, so it’s been impossible to ignore the problems developing over the years with opioids. So naturally, we at the Clinton Herald, wanted to investigate what was happening in our own backyard.

And since this issue is so diverse, we can’t possibly set aside one day for coverage, so starting March 3, and running every Saturday for the remainder of the month, we will highlight the problems, treatment options and the people who are witnessing the effects of prescription pain medication and heroin on a daily basis in the Gateway area.

This story doesn’t come together overnight. The planning and sourcing have been underway for several weeks, so you’ll hear from first responders, medical professionals, law enforcement, jail administers, citizens and more.

Never having a drug addiction or knowing anyone with this kind of addition, the story’s development has been eye-opening. Regardless of my past history, it hit close to home when I was sitting in the kitchen with a mother, who has a daughter with a heroin addiction going on six years.

As I already mentioned, I do feel more comfortable with being in control of my situation, so it’s hard to hear from a parent who can’t possibly control the actions of her adult daughter. Being a parent of three children myself, I understand the realities of trying to lead children on the best path. They don’t always listen, but in this case, it’s a matter of life and death, rather than learning how to sit still and be a good listener.

Hearing from those who have seen the devastation first-hand opens up the realities of what many in the healthcare industry, and prevention and treatment industry have said for years — this can happen to anyone. Fair or unfair, most people perceive addicts in a certain way. For opioids, as many officials told me during this weeks-long journey, it doesn’t discriminate against age, race or socioeconomic status. That’s why, even almost in his 90s, my grandfather was cognizant of being careful with medication.

In Clinton County in 2016, there were more people ages 51 to 60 who were treated for opiate abuse than 24 or younger.

The series — No Boundaries: Opioids on the rise — will look at how that affects treatment options and what’s planned for the future. The community, much like the rest of the nation, is aware of the problems and making inroads on how to not only treat the addiction, but also work to prevent this from bubbling up to what is currently transpiring in Ohio and West Virginia.

Much like a homelessness series we constructed two years ago, there are a lot of moving parts and many people involved in this issue. Go ahead and set aside some more time with your Saturday newspaper starting next week, and hear from the key players and experts on opioid use in your community.

Scott Levine is an award-winning writer and columnist for the Clinton Herald. He can be reached at or@ScottLevineCH on Twitter.

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