Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph M. Pinjuh of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force in Washington, D.C., gives a presentation Monday night at Wadsworth Public Library on the battle against opioid abuse.
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WADSWORTH — Last year, 64,000 Americans lost their lives to a drug overdose, which is more than those killed during the Vietnam War, an assistant U.S. attorney said during a presentation Monday night on the battle against opiate and heroin abuse.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Pinjuh told the audience at Wadsworth Public Library that he is attached to the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force out of Washington, D.C, and it is time citizens “change the dialogue” about addiction.
One of the main goals right now of the organization is addressing the growing opioid crisis that has been spreading across the nation, he said.
“I think the most important things we are doing is to get out here and talk about the issues of prevention and education,” Pinjuh said. “I probably do a school talk once a week and I think that is where we are getting the biggest bang for our buck.”
During his school presentations, Pinjuh said one misconception students have is that prescription medication is safe because it is prescribed by a doctor.
“My retort back is, ‘But are they prescribed for you?’ ”
In addition to the possibility of an allergic reaction that could cause death, he said pills routinely are seized that are disguised as Oxycontin, but in reality are “pure fentanyl.”
“You take that one pill, it will kill you,” Pinjuh said. “We have to reach people with education.”
Pinjuh told the audience that unintentional drug overdose is now the leading cause of injury-related death in Ohio.
“It has surpassed traffic crashes, it surpassed suicide and it surpassed murder.”
He said the U.S. accounts for 4.7 percent of the world’s population, but is accountable for 99 percent of the world’s production of hydrocodone, a semi-synthetic opioid.
Pinjuh asked the audience to think about the medicine cabinet in their homes and if old medications are in there.
“You know how the doctors prescribe. What’s sitting in that medicine cabinet is a ticking time bomb,” he said. “That has a value on the street.”
Pinjuh said someone’s first experiment with drugs typically is prescription medication that they received from a family member or someone else.
“We want to really break down that stigma of how safe it is,” he said.
Wadsworth At-large Councilman Tom Stugmyer said anyone who would like to get rid of old prescription drugs can do so at Wadsworth City Hall, 120 Maple St., during regular business hours.
Pinjuh’s talk was part of a monthly speaker series presented by the Wadsworth Drug Free Coalition.
“Once a month we have a speaker at the library to try to simply increase people’s awareness of the addiction and all the problems it is causing,” coalition member Marla Bianco said.
Bianco, of Wadsworth, said the speaker for May 21 at the library will be Roots Yoga owner Jamie McDaniel, who will talk about the positive role yoga and meditation can have for individuals in recovery.
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