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Substance Abuse Prevention

Why is prevention important?

A substance use disorder is a chronic, progressive, relapsing disease, not unlike heart disease, cancer or diabetes. It has a pediatric onset, when the brain is not fully developed, and use and abuse peaks in young adulthood. It is preventable and treatable.

There are two main factors that lead to substance use disorders – early onset of use and biologic factors.

The research tells us that those who begin to use substances before the age of 15 are five times more likely to develop abuse/dependence in adulthood.

Children of addicts are four times more likely to develop the disease.

It is important to delay when initiation occurs – remember brain development – so kids can grow up healthy and well.

What are the signs and symptoms of opiate abuse?

Physical: small pupils, shallow or slow breathing, slow pulse/heart rate, analgesia (feeling no pain), sedation, euphoria (feeling high), nausea, vomiting, itching or flushed skin, constipation, slurred speech, poor coordination.

Behavioral: changes in friends/grades/activities, changes in appetite or sleep patterns, changes in weight, deterioration of physical appearance/personal grooming habits, confusion or poor judgment.


What are the harms and consequences of opiate abuse?

Impaired decision-making abilities, ability to regulate behavior, and respond to stressful situations.

Physical dependence, addiction.

Respiratory depression, hypoxia, coma, permanent brain damage, death.

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Law Enforcement

The Hamilton County Heroin Coalition Task Force has been tasked with reducing the supply of heroin and opiates in Hamilton County through a unique partnership with several law enforcement entities. Although traditional law enforcement must be part of an overall solution, heroin and opiate abuse requires strategies that not only reduce supply but also address the demand. Our approach includes the following action steps:



Investigation is the top priority of the Task Force. The Task Force investigators are deputized by the Hamilton County Sheriff, giving them power to investigate overdoses and related crimes anywhere in Hamilton County.

If an overdose occurs in our county, no matter where the drug is sold or used, the Task Force will investigate to identify the dealer, as well as anyone else involved. Local law enforcement is working to give a voice to those who have lost their battle to addiction, but we need your help to investigate and pursue prosecution.

If you have any information on the supply of heroin and opiates in your community, or on an overdose death please contact the Hamilton County Heroin Coalition Task Force Tip Line at 513-946-4411.

Law Enforcement:

The Task Force has established relationships with all local, state and federal law enforcement agencies sharing intelligence and resources in Hamilton County and the region. Those who are found to have sold or supplied heroin and opiates to someone who overdoses could face serious charges. The Task Force personnel are highly trained, dedicated and experienced investigators with access to the latest in investigative tools.



The Coalition and Task Force have taken the unprecedented step to gather intelligence in regards to dealers, overdoses, arrests and the use of Narcan … and we’re turning that intelligence into useful information so we can act.

We’ve teamed up with The Greater Cincinnati Fusion Center to obtain, analyze and transform data into information that can be used by investigators, patrol officers, EMS/Fire, doctors and the Coalition. The Fusion Center will track heroin and opiates distribution locations, overdoses and use locations, the resources used by first responders and other important information. For example, Ohio has seen a dramatic increase in the number of overdoses from opiates cut with Fentanyl, a prescription painkiller that increases the chances of death.

It’s our hope that distributing this information will allow the officers on the front line and responding to calls to be better prepared to intervene with those distributing drugs. This information also assists the medical community and addiction services providers with information on current drug use trends to better help those in need.

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Addiction, like any other illness, requires treatment to recover.

Effective treatment attends to multiple needs of the individual, not just his or her drug abuse. As with other chronic illnesses, relapses to drug abuse can occur. Relapse signals the need for treatment to be reinstated or changed. It does not indicate that the individual can’t get better.

To learn more, visit the National Institute on Drug Abuse website:


Families suffer, too.

National surveys indicate that 1 in 4 families are struggling with alcohol and/or drug addiction in a family member. Alcoholism and drug addiction affects the whole family – young, teenage, or grown-up children; wives or husbands; brothers or sisters; parents or other relatives and friends.

Without help, active addiction can totally disrupt family life and cause harmful effects that can last a lifetime.


Reaching out is critical.

Even when we know there is a problem with addiction and really want to fix it, going to an addiction treatment program for help can be really intimidating.

Sometimes it seems your calls get you nowhere. Maybe you have tried before and feel like you failed. Or maybe you are not sure what to expect and find the whole thing overwhelming.

Don’t give up. There is help available.

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Harm Reduction

Drug use is part of our world and harm reduction efforts work to minimize its harmful effects rather than simply ignore or condemn them.

Drug use is a complex, multi-faceted phenomenon that encompasses a continuum of behaviors from severe abuse to total abstinence, and acknowledges that some ways of using drugs are clearly safer than others.

Harm reduction is a non-judgmental, non-coercive provision of services and resources to people who use drugs and the communities in which they live in order to assist them in reducing harm to themselves.

Harm reduction does not attempt to minimize or ignore the real and tragic harm and danger associated with licit and illicit drug use.

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