11/18/2015 – 10:46 pm
This is part of a fourteen-week series highlighting many aspects of drug use, enforcement of drug laws and treatment that community members and authorities in Hancock County face.
When it comes to opiate addiction, people who work in pharmacies are highly susceptible to addiction. Statistically, one and six pharmacists have struggled with opiate addiction of some form or another. In the final chemical dependency seminar at the University of Findlay, people heard the personal story of one such individual who struggled for years with opiate addiction.
Chris Hart came from a good home. He was an average student, had good grades and went to college to become a pharmacist. Hart didn’t party in high school, but he did for one year in college. After that year, he transferred to ONU where they enrolled in the pharmacy program. Hart says that he had a desire to be liked, but after graduating and working in a pharmacy for several years, Hart found it difficult to be liked in this line of work. He mentioned that telling people about issues with their medications and having to reject people for medications took its toll. After one particularly hard day, and given his ease of access to medications, Hart took some Percocet. He felt better and soon began taking more and more drugs to maintain that feeling of euphoria.
“And one day, through a slip I found this whole new world of drugs that made me so happy. So I lived and breathed for them” said Hart.
But eventually Hart’s addiction was discovered. He lost his license and was sent into treatment. The treatment programs had their effect and after several years Hart was able to get his license back and be a practicing pharmacist again. At first he would be monitored and drug tested, but over time as he proved himself, he was no longer required to be tested or attend meetings. Hart relapsed in his addiction.
“I quit going to meetings. I didn’t have the safety net of drug screens anymore. I didn’t call my sponsor. I heard the things they told me, in AA and the old timers that it’s worse the second time, but when you don’t treat your disease then the drugs can start talking to you again.” said Hart.
Hart acknowledged that everyone has stresses, and everyone has issues in their everyday lives that can make them turn to opiates to get by.
“But the difference is, not everybody has those little magic bottles sitting right there at arms length that take it all away. That’s what makes us so susceptible. The minute that a pharmacist walks into a pharmacy, they are at a 30% greater risk of becoming chemically dependent.”
When he was caught the second time, Hart found that he would be arrested and incarcerated for stealing drugs. He drove out of his town, and away from his family and friends and attempted suicide at a hotel. He was found, and he was taken to the emergency room where his life was saved. He ended up losing his license permanently and was incarcerated for sixty days in jail. After completing a second treatment program and not knowing what to do, Hart reached out to colleagues at ONU and started a chemical dependency elective at the College of pharmacy to tell his story and teach pharmacy students about how easy it is for them to become dependent on opiates.
“And I realized quickly that students wanted this information. This is an elective, they don’t have to take this, but they want to know about it. Not about me, but they want to know about the experience, so as long as there’s a need I’ll try to keep doing it.” said Hart.
From Ohio Northern, Hart began to get calls from colleges across northwest Ohio, including the University of Findlay. Today he lectures at five colleges on chemical dependency and addiction and will soon be adding more. Hart says that addiction is a disease which can be inflicted upon anyone.
“I’m an ordinary guy. I’m nobody special. I’m just an ordinary guy who became addicted. It can happen to anybody. I didn’t drink or do drugs in high school or college. I was a late bloomer. I’m just a nice guy who this happened to. So it can happen to anybody.” said Hart.
Hart will use visuals to aid in his presentation, and he appeared in his jumpsuit and handcuffs from jail to help show how opiate addiction can take over a person over the course of time and where you can end up.
This was the last public seminar in the series. The seminars were sponsored by The University of Findlay College of Pharmacy, Hancock County Board of Alcohol, Drug Addiction & Mental Health Services, Hancock County Community Partnership and the Hancock County Opiate Task Force.
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